China Deactivates National COVID Tracking App

Days after China began a scaleback of its long-running zero-COVID policy, on Monday, Beijing pulled the plug on its COVID tracking smartphone app that recorded people's travel movements during the pandemic.

China Deactivates National COVID Tracking App
Image credit: EPA [via the Guardian]

Facts

  • Days after China began a scaleback of its long-running zero-COVID policy, on Monday, Beijing pulled the plug on its COVID tracking smartphone app that recorded people's travel movements during the pandemic.
  • The government-run "communications itinerary card," which used residents' mobile data to identify and quarantine residents who traveled to pandemic hot spots, was deactivated even as cases continued to surge across the country.
  • Beijing's decision to roll back its zero-COVID policy and abandon the tracking app was reportedly taken after unprecedented anti-lockdown protests swept China late last month — posing the biggest challenge to the Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping's authority during his term.
  • Last week, Beijing lifted its most restrictive COVID policies — including large-scale lockdowns. The move is seen as a victory for the protestors.
  • Meanwhile, China reported 8,626 covid infections Sunday. However, recent testing policy changes could mean the numbers are likely much higher than recorded.
  • Chen Zhi, the chief physician of the Beijing Emergency Center, warned COVID was "spreading rapidly," and despite the strict preventive and corrective measures, "it will be difficult to cut off the transmission chain completely."

Sources: CNN, Guardian, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, BBC News, and Al Jazeera.

Narratives

  • Pro-China narrative, as provided by People's Daily. China is fine-tuning its COVID response based on the facts on the ground, and it hasn’t abandoned its effective policies to contain the virus. Saving lives and safeguarding public health, while at the same time ensuring economic growth, are the government's top priorities — regardless of what Western countries and their media pontificate.
  • Anti-China narrative, as provided by Bangkok Post. Decisions like ending the tracking app are part of a knee-jerk reaction by China to the rare protests over its zero-COVID policies and other criticisms. But China still faces many stiff challenges, including getting more people vaccinated before it can permanently loosen restrictions. COVID outbreaks and more dissension from the Chinese people will undoubtedly lead to tighter restrictions in the future — this is a volatile situation.