China Mothballs COVID Travel Tracker

Hospitals are bracing for surge in cases as restrictions are eased
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 12, 2022 7:15 PM CST
China Mothballs COVID Travel Tracker
A masked worker looks out from a restaurant as its entrance door displays a health check QR code and a notice that reads "Please scan your health QR code and travel code, thank you for your cooperation" in Beijing, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022.   (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

After almost three years, China's national COVID-19 people-tracking app is being deactivated. Authorities say the app will be shut down at the end of Monday, the BBC reports. The move, the latest shift away from the country's strict "zero COVID" policy, is being seen as a highly symbolic step but not one that will have a big impact on most citizens' lives, since provinces and cities are keeping their own tracking apps in place. The Communications Itinerary Card app used cellphone data to limit the travel of people who had been in high-risk zones in the previous 14 days, reports CNN.

Chinese authorities decided that easing restrictions on travel between provinces had made the app obsolete, per the BBC. COVID testing and quarantine requirements were also loosened as the government made major changes following widespread protests last month. The loosening of restrictions has been largely welcomed but hospitals are bracing for a massive surge in cases, the AP reports. China reported 8,500 new cases on Monday, but with less testing, the true total is unknown. Fever clinics at hospitals in Beijing received around 22,000 new patients on Sunday, 16 times higher than a week earlier.

Experts say they expect the post-loosening outbreak to peak around a month from now, but it's not clear when it will end, or whether the country's health system will be able to cope, the Washington Post reports. "Hospitals bore the brunt of zero COVID, and are now overwhelmed by an unprecedented outbreak," a surgeon in Beijing told the Post. She said more than half the staff in her hospital had tested positive over the last week. She said, however, that lifting restrictions was a risk worth taking. "If the lockdown had gone on, more people would have died from poverty and starvation even if they stayed COVID-free," she said. (More China stories.)

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