Mobile phones become essential tool in China during coronavirus outbreak

By Javier Triana

Beijing, Apr 3 (efe-epa).- From tracking people’s movements, helping avoid human contact and determining if someone should go into quarantine – the mobile phones have become an essential tool in China as it nears a possible end to the coronavirus pandemic.

In many stores and areas, in some cases entire neighbourhoods, people need to scan a quick response code (QR) to enter premises: the phones certify that the owner has not left Beijing in the last 15 days.

If the phone shows its owner has been outside the city, they will be quarantined and prevented access beyond designated areas.

The QR scan can be done through WeChat, an instant messaging application that works as a social media platform and electronic payment system.

After scanning the code, a form appears asking the person to fill in their name, telephone number, passport details and nationality, before allowing the user to enter a shop, restaurant or cafe.

“We were asked to start implementing the regulations on March 17,” the manager of a Beijing cafe told EFE, who asked to remain anonymous.

“If customers don’t have the right code, we won’t let them in. It’s already happened to a couple of groups of Chinese citizens who came from Shanghai,” she added.

Once a customer passes the QR scan, their body temperature is taken by the staff and, if it is less than 37.3C, their names are recorded in a register in case the government needs to locate possible contacts of known infections.

If a person does not have their mobile phone or does not have enough charge or an internet connection, they will not be allowed to pass the checkpoint.

Phones have become an essential tool in China’s bid to return to normalcy.

The scans are not limited to bars, restaurants and cafes but also entire neighbourhoods, such as in the artistic district 798 in the Chinese capital.

In more than 300 cities across the country, including Hangzhou, Shanghai and Wuhan, where the epidemic originated, people need to have a “green code” on their mobile to move around.

The code gives access to places and services, such as public transport, supermarkets and libraries, which are gradually resuming activity in several parts of the country.

“The other day, I was finally able to go to the library to return several books I had borrowed before the confinement began,” an anonymous woman in her 30s from Shanghai told EFE.

She said that an appointment was required to enter the building, which has a limit on the number of visitors, and a green code was generated certifying her healthy status.

A green code allows people to fairly normal life and use public services, a yellow code imposes a seven-day quarantine and red results in a 14-day confinement.

To obtain one of these codes people have to answer questions such as whether they have visited affected areas in the last 14 days, been in contact with infected people or had any coronavirus symptoms.

The role of mobile phones does not end there.

Several Chinese and foreign workers at local and foreign companies told EFE they had to send their location in real time to their bosses every day, often multiple times a day.

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