China will abolish its Covid-19 trace tracking service, the “Mobile Itinerary card,” on Tuesday, officials say.
“Mobile Itinerary card inquiry channels such as text messages, web pages, WeChat extensions, Alipay extensions and app will go offline at the same time,” according to a statement from the country’s Academy of Information and Communications Technology.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, China has used the itinerary card system to track individuals’ travel histories over 14 days. The system is tied to people’s phone numbers and aims to identify individuals who have visited cities with any area designated a “high-risk zone” by authorities.
If a person has been to a city with a “high-risk zone” in the prior 14 days, then the city will be marked with a star sign in the system.
This system, together with a health QR code that tracks individuals’ health statuses regarding Covid-19, determined people’s movements into public spaces across China.
It has been a point of criticism for many Chinese people on social media for allowing local governments to make generalized policies banning entry to those who’ve visited a city that has a “high-risk zone,” even if they did not go to the high-risk zones within that city.
The announcement the system is ending follows China’s unveiling last week of 10 new guidelines that loosened some Covid-19 restrictions, a sign that the country was moving away from its zero-Covid 19 approach.
The 10-point plan largely scrapped health code tracking for most public places, rolled back mass testing, allowed many positive cases to quarantine at home and imposed limits on lockdowns of areas deemed “high risk.”
Top health officials in Beijing said the changes to the rules were based on scientific evidence, including the spread of the comparatively milder Omicron variant, the vaccination rate, and China’s level of experience in responding to the virus.
It follows a wave of protests in China in late November and early December calling for an end to lockdowns and zero-Covid measures.
Even after much of the world relaxed pandemic restrictions, China continued to lock down entire cities and send all Covid-19 patients to central quarantine facilities, while restricting others from visiting areas where positive cases were detected.
Thousands took to the streets during the protests, with some voicing broader grievances against censorship and the ruling Communist Party’s authoritarian leadership.