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Cheer and fear as China withdraws Covid-19 tracking app
Published on: 2022-12-15
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People in China celebrated the withdrawal on Tuesday of a state-mandated app used to track whether they had travelled to Covid-stricken areas, in the latest loosening of some of the world’s toughest anti-virus rules.

As authorities deactivated the ‘itinerary code’ app at midnight on Monday, China’s four telecoms firms said they would delete users’ data associated with the app.

“Goodbye itinerary code, I hope to never see you again,” said a post on social media platform Weibo, where netizens cheered the demise of an app that critics feared could be used for mass surveillance.

“The hand that stretched out to exert power during the epidemic should now be pulled back,” wrote another user.

For all the relief over last week’s decision to begin rowing back the government’s stringent ‘zero-Covid’ policy, there are fears that China may now pay a price for having possibly protected its 1.4 billion people too well against the virus.

The potential for a surge of infections during the Chinese New Year holiday next month, when people travel across the country to be with their families, remains a danger for a population that lacks “herd immunity” and has relatively low vaccination rates among the elderly, according to some analysts.

Itinerary codes were mainly used to track domestic travel within China, while authorities also use so-called health codes that residents must scan to enter public venues in order to check whether they may have been in contact with the virus.

The moves made last week to unwind the Covid curbs included dropping mandatory testing prior to many public activities and reining in quarantine.

Long queues outside fever clinics were a worrying sign that a wave of infections is building, even though official tallies of new cases have trended lower in recent weeks as authorities eased back on testing.

While China has not announced that the health codes will be scrapped, several cities including Shanghai have said that residents are no longer required to show these codes when entering places such as shops

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