The Chinese government is abolishing its COVID tracking app in a rapid policy shift away from zero COVID.
As per Chinese state media People’s Daily, the so-called “Mobile Itinerary Card” will be disabled past midnight on December 12.
The report says, “Mobile Itinerary card inquiry channels such as text messages, web pages, WeChat extensions, Alipay extensions and apps will go offline at the same time.”
The Daily Economic News reported that the country’s top three operators, China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Mobile, have successively stated that they will simultaneously delete data related to user itineraries.
China has mandated the system since the beginning of the pandemic. It tracks residents’ travel histories by phone number and lets them know if they may have been in a designated high-risk area. Respectively, blue, yellow, and red represent low, medium, and high risk.
Together with the health QR code showcasing if a person has been infected, the system decides people’s movements into public spaces in the zero-COVID era. It has also raised concerns about surveillance and accuracy.
The internet bid farewell to the app with joy.
This user writes, “Great, finally getting rid of these “electronic shackles.”
“I support the app going offline.”
Another says, “This thing should never have existed.”
“I’ve been waiting three years for this day.”
As Reuters noted, the app has been doubted as a potential surveillance tool by the authorities. Others are calling for eradicating the health code system, which has been under more criticism for its accuracy, such as in this video.
The removal of the Mobile Itinerary Card comes as China changes its zero-COVID strategy at an unprecedented speed compared to previous attitudes, ushered after the nationwide protests in late November.
It also came as official data appears meaningless now in the Asian country. CNN casts doubt on Beijing’s count of 8,626 cases as of December 11, a decrease of nearly 2,000 infections from the day prior.
The publication cited a note on a residential building in the capital that reads, “Due to the severe epidemic situation in recent days, the number of employees who can come to work is seriously insufficient, and the normal operation of the apartment has been greatly affected and challenged.”