China will scrap its Covid-19 trace-tracking service, the Mobile Itinerary Card, on Tuesday, officials say.
“Mobile itinerary map request channels such as text messages, websites, WeChat extensions, Alipay extensions and apps will go offline at the same time,” the country’s Academy of Information and Communications Technology said in a statement.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, China has been using the itinerary map system to track individuals’ travel history over 14 days. The system is tied to people’s phone numbers and aims to identify people who have visited cities whose area has been designated a “high-risk zone” by authorities.
If a person has been in a city with a “risk area” in the previous 14 days, the city will be marked with an asterisk in the system.
This system, along with a health QR code that tracks people’s health status related to Covid-19, governed people’s movements in public spaces across China.
It drew criticism from many Chinese on social media for allowing local governments to enact general policies banning those who have visited a city with a “high-risk zone” from entering the city, even if they did not go there High risk zones within this city.
The announcement that the system is ending follows China’s unveiling last week of 10 new guidelines that eased some Covid-19 restrictions, a sign the country is moving away from its zero-Covid-19 approach.
The 10-point plan has largely eliminated health code tracking for most public places, rolled back mass testing, quarantined many positive cases at home and imposed restrictions on lockdowns in areas considered “high risk”.
Senior health officials in Beijing said the rule changes were based on science, including the prevalence of the comparatively milder Omicron variant, vaccination coverage and China’s wealth of experience in responding to the virus.
It follows a wave of protests in China in late November and early December demanding an end to lockdowns and zero Covid measures.
Even after much of the world eased pandemic restrictions, China continued to lockdown entire cities and sent all Covid-19 patients to central quarantine facilities, while barring others from visiting areas where positive cases had been detected.
Thousands took to the streets during the protests, with some voicing broader grievances against censorship and the authoritarian leadership of the ruling Communist Party.