China is to ease its domestic coronavirus travel restrictions by issuing national standards for a Covid-19 health QR code, national authorities announced on Friday.

Eligible citizens who were previously subject to tough quarantine and travel restrictions will be allowed to travel around the country.

The standards will help provinces to acknowledge health codes from each other and facilitate travel, said the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR).

Facing a dilemma over how to prevent a re-emergence of the pandemic in China and boosting the country’s sluggish economy, the provinces and municipalities had previously introduced their own colour-coded QR systems, in an attempt to get people back to work while continuing to track any spread of the coronavirus.  

In general, only carriers of a green colour code, indicating that they were healthy, were allowed to enter a city. Those with yellow and red codes needed to quarantine themselves at home and undergo supervised quarantine respectively.

The system determines a person’s health status based on factors such as travel history, duration of time spent in an outbreak-stricken area and relationships to potential carriers of the virus, and the system refreshes the colour codes at midnight on a daily basis.

However, there have been reports that people from Hubei – the central Chinese province where the Covid-19 outbreak was first reported in late December – had been turned away by other cities despite having a green label issued by their provincial authorities.

It has also been reported that people from high-risk areas, despite having been issued a green colour code by their home province, had been put under quarantine by other cities because of a lack of universal recognition of the system.

Beijing has announced that the National People’s Congress, the country’s rubber-stamp parliament, will hold its annual session on May 22. The event has been delayed for 2½ months while the country has continued to take measures to curb the spread of the virus.

To facilitate the event, Beijing said previously that travellers to Beijing from low-risk areas were no longer subject to a 14-day quarantine restriction, but that people from high-risk areas such as Wuhan would still be put under quarantine, even if they had a green-coloured code.

The existing QR code system has been operated largely through social media and payment platforms such as WeChat and Alipay, owned respectively by Tencent and Alibaba, two of the Chinese tech giants. Alibaba is the owner of the South China Morning Post.

There are currently about 100 types of health code in operation around the country, according to state news agency Xinhua. Once they are standardised, various applications will be able to obtain personal health information through a unified interface, the SAMR said.

Source: SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

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