China is planning to scrap its “mobile itinerary card” health tracking app by the end of Monday, as the Chinese Communist Party continues to acquiesce to protesters enraged by stringent zero-COVID policies.
Many Chinese residents will still have to comply with similar tracking apps mandated in cities across China. The “mobile itinerary card” app had been in effect for about three years and leaned on phone signals to surveil whether individuals trekked through high-risk areas.
China’s itinerary card app had been seen as a core component of the zero-COVID strategy. Citizens were required to enter their phone numbers into the app and get approval to travel to certain locations. But restrictions on such travel have since been relaxed by the CCP, prompting authorities to deactivate it.
Chinese officials have been easing up on COVID-19 suppression measures as a torrent of protesters has taken to the streets demanding an end to policies that featured snap lockdowns and strict quarantine measures. The public uproar was exacerbated by a November fire that killed 10 people amid sealed-in apartment doors due to quarantine policies in the western city of Urumqi, Xinjiang.
Under some of the rollbacks, Chinese citizens who contract COVID-19 can isolate at home instead of in state facilities. Still, the Asian economic powerhouse’s COVID-19 policies are still regarded as some of the toughest in the world. The country has seen a surge in infections. Beijing reported 22,000 hospitalized on Sunday, up dramatically from the week prior, according to the BBC.
On paper, cases appear to have cooled, but that has come during an easing of mass testing. Zhong Nanshan, a leading COVID-19 expert in China, has contended the virus is still “spreading rapidly” in an interview with state media. China has spurned Western vaccines, using its own instead, which have significantly lower efficacy.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who recently secured a third five-year term, has backed the easing of the country’s COVID-19 containment policies in the wake of the festering backlash.
The country is coming up on January’s Lunar New Year, which is traditionally one of the busiest times for travel in China.