WUHAN, China (AP) – Since the coronavirus outbreak, life in China has been ruled by green symbols on smartphone screens.
Green is a “health code” that says users are symptom free, and are required to take the subway, check in to a hotel or just enter Wuhan, the central city of 11 million people where the pandemic began in December.
This system was made possible by the almost universal adoption of smartphones by the Chinese people and the embrace of the ruling Big Party over the so-called Big Data to expand its oversight and control of society.
Walking to the Wuhan subway station on Wednesday, Wu Shenghong, a manager for a clothing manufacturer, used his smartphone to scan the barcode on the poster that triggered his health code application. The green code and part of the identity card number appear on the screen. A guard wearing a mask and glasses waved at him.
If the code is red, it will tell the guard that Mr. Wu is certain to be infected or have a fever or other symptoms and is awaiting diagnosis. The yellow code means that he has contact with an infected person but has not completed quarantine for two weeks, meaning he must be in the hospital or be quarantined at home.
Wu, who was on his way to see a retailer after returning to work this week, said the system had helped convince him after a two-month closure left streets in Wuhan empty.
People with red or yellow codes “certainly don’t run outside,” said Wu, 51. “I feel safe.”
The intensive use of the health code is part of an effort by the authorities to revive the Chinese economy while preventing a surge in infections when workers flow back to factories, offices and shops.
Most access to Wuhan, a manufacturing center in central China, was suspended on January 23 to fight the corona virus. The lockout spread to the surrounding cities in Hubei province and then the national people were ordered to stay at home under the most intensive anti-disease control ever imposed. The last trip control in Wuhan will be revoked April 8.
Other governments should consider adopting Chinese-style “digital contact tracking”, Oxford University researchers recommend in a report published Tuesday in the journal Science. The virus is spreading too fast for traditional methods to track infections “but can be controlled if the process is faster, more efficient and occurs at scale,” the researchers wrote.
After riding the subway, Wu and other commuters use their smartphones to scan a code that records the number of cars they drive in case the authorities need to find them later.
An officer carried a banner that said, “Please wear a mask during your trip. Don’t be close to other people. Scan the code before you get off the train. “The chairs are marked with points that indicate the seats of the passengers to stay far enough from each other.
Visitors to shopping centers, office buildings, and other public places in Wuhan undergo a similar routine. They show their health code and guards in masks and gloves check them for fever before being allowed to enter.
The health code adds a growing matrix of high-tech monitoring that tracks what Chinese citizens do in public, online, and at work: Millions of video cameras cover the streets from big cities to small cities. Censors monitor activity on the internet and social media. State-owned telecommunications operators can track where mobile customers go.
A large computerized system known as social credit is intended to enforce compliance with official rules. People with too many deficiencies for violations ranging from committing serious crimes to littering can be blocked from buying plane tickets, getting loans, getting government jobs or leaving the country.
A statement by the Tianjin city government, a port city with 16 million people close to Beijing, said the health code was temporary but gave no indication when use would end.
and Alipay electronic payment services from the Alibaba Group
the biggest e-commerce company in the world.
About 900 million people use the system at WeChat, according to the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper and other outlets. No totals for Alipay have been reported.
Obtaining a health code is simple: Users fill out electronic forms with details of their identity, address, and whether they cough or have a fever. The system does not include steps to confirm whether the user is healthy.
Authorities have threatened that violators will be “dealt with cruelly,” although detailed penalties have not been announced.
The regulation says people who try to travel with the red health code will be marked in the social credit system.
“Fraud, concealment and other behavior” carry punishments that “will have a huge impact on their future lives and work,” a statement by the northeastern provincial government of Heilongjiang said.