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Health Code: What and how?

Updated: Apr 10, 2020 CIKD Print
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It is important to note that the information provided in this Series is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment.

To contain the COVID-19 outbreak, limiting people's movement is necessary. However, companies would need their employees to go back to work after the Spring Festival holiday. To balance the need between disease control and work resumption, local governments in China have created "Health Code", using digital technology to facilitate people's movement and improve public health management.

"Health Code" is a dynamic code on the mobile phone app that consists of three colors: green, red and yellow. It is automatically checked and generated by the system of local governments with information received from users' self-declaration and disease control-related big data. The Green "Health Code" works as a digital pass, with which people can move around in places like public transportation, communities, offices, supermarkets and pharmacies. It will turn to red or yellow if the user gets in touch with the infected, and the user might be informed to quarantine immediately.

On February 11, the government of Hangzhou City in Zhejiang Province created "Health Code" with the help of Alipay. In the next two weeks, "Health Code" has been promoted in seven provinces and municipalities such as Zhejiang, Sichuan, Chongqing and Shanghai. Some other provinces and municipalities also created different versions of "Health Code" with the help of WeChat. To solve the discrepancy of "Health Code" systems that hinders people's travelling across provinces, the national E-Government Citizen Services Platform created a unified form of code for all provinces to follow. Hence, the local governments would report relevant health information to the national platform, using the same standard and requirement.

Up to March 20, "Health Code" has been used in most of the regions in China, with the total number of usage reaching 1.2 billion times. In addition, since March 10, the government of Hubei Province has been issuing "Hubei Health Code" to support companies to resume work and people's movement. In addition, the government of Zhejiang Province has created the international version of "Health Code" for those returning from overseas.

"Health Code" functions in the following ways:

1. For disease control agencies, the "Health Code" platform helps them fulfill duties like community registration, employees' registration, health self-check and report, fever clinic inquiry, mask reservation and purchase, online payment and real-time disease information release. The platform has improved the efficiency of disease prevention and control, simplified the information gathering process, and avoided repeated form-filling paperwork.

2. For the government, the "Health Code" platform has established a unified standard to solve the information discrepancy from different companies, communities and schools. The platform helps to have a more precise assessment of the real-time situation, and to make policies based on the balance of disease control and resumption of economic and social activities.

3. For individuals, it is no longer needed to report their health conditions repetitively to different agencies with different paperwork. They could go to different places with a single pass. It also helps people to know their exposure to risks.

It should be noted that "Health Code" is a digital management tool for people's movement under the current situation of COVID-19 containment. It is expected that its use will be adapted when situation changes.

Author: Jiang Xiheng,Center for International Knowledge on Development

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