China to drop travel tracing as it relaxes ‘zero-COVID’ policy
Beijing, Dec 12 (AP) China will drop a travel tracing requirement as part of an uncertain exit from its strict “zero-COVID” policies that have elicited widespread dissatisfaction.
At midnight on Monday, the smart phone app will cease to function, meaning residents’ travels will not be traced and recorded, potentially reducing the likelihood they will be forced into quarantine for visiting pandemic hot spots.
ina’s ruling Communist Party allows no independent parties to conduct verification and such apps have been used in past to suppress travel and free speech. It’s part of a package of apps that includes the health code, which has yet to be disabled.
The move follows the government’s snap announcement last week that it was ending many of the most draconian measures. That follows three years of lockdowns, travel restrictions and quarantines on those moving between provinces and cities, mandated testing, and requirements that a clean bill of health be shown to access public areas.
Last month in Beijing and several other cities, protests over the restrictions grew into calls for leader Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party step down, in a level of public political expression not seen in decades.
While met with relief, the relaxation has also sparked concerns about a new wave of infections potentially overwhelming health care resources in some areas.
Xi’s government is still officially committed to stopping virus transmission, the last major country to try. But the latest moves suggest the party will tolerate more cases without quarantines or shutting down travel or businesses as it winds down its “zero-COVID” strategy.
Facing a surge in COVID-19 cases, China is setting up more intensive care facilities and trying to strengthen hospitals’ ability to deal with severe cases.
At the same time, the government reversed course by allowing those with mild symptoms to recuperate at home rather than being sent to field hospitals that have become notorious for overcrowding and poor hygiene.
Reports on the Chinese internet, which is tightly controlled by the government, sought to reassure a nervous public, stating that restrictions would continue to be dropped and travel, indoor dining and other economic activity would soon be returning to pre-pandemic conditions.