China’s ‘close contact detector’ app helps users test exposure to coronavirus

The virus, which harbours symptoms similar to pneumonia, has already infected more than 42,000 people and claimed 1,000 lives

China has launched a smartphone app that allows citizens to monitor their exposure to coronavirus, allowing them to test their level of risk for contracting the deadly illness.

The death toll from CoViD-19 has now reached 1,000 – most of whom are Chinese nationals – with global cases of infection reaching 42,000. Developed by the China Electronics Technology Group alongside government departments, the coronavirus app uses data collated by health and transport authorities, according to the state-run news agency Xinhua. Dubbed the ‘close contact detector’, the app has been designed to make people aware if they’re at risk of contracting the disease, based on whether they’ve had close contact with infected persons.

Users sign up to the coronavirus app by scanning the QR code with their smartphones through WeChat, Alipay, or QQ. Individuals must register with their phone numbers before keying in their full name and ID number. Users can then check the health status of up to three other individuals by entering their ID numbers. If close contact with a person who has contracted the virus is confirmed, the potential coronavirus victims are advised to stay home and inform local health authorities.

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Those at risk of ‘close contact’ are people who work closely together, those who share a classroom or live in the same house, as well as medical personnel who’ve been treating coronavirus patients, and passengers on mass transit where a patient or possible patient has also been on board.

The launch of the new coronavirus app highlights the true extent of Chinese government surveillance, though according to the BBC, citizens and experts suggest that this case will not be seen as controversial within the country.

“In China, and across Asia, data is not seen as something to be locked down, it’s something that can be used. Provided it’s done in a transparent way, with consent where needed,” Hong Kong-based lawyer Carolyn Bigg told the BBC.

“From a Chinese perspective this is a really useful service for people…It’s a really powerful tool that really shows the power of data being used for good,” she explained.

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