That “health score” will be embedded in a digital QR code accessible on your phone, ready to be scanned whenever needed.
But there are also fears that some of these extraordinary measures could be here to stay even after the public health crisis is over, posing a long-term threat to privacy.
That concern was amplified among Hangzhou residents when their municipal government announced Friday that it was planning to make permanent a version of the “health code” app used during the pandemic.
Since February, the Chinese government has used a color-based “health code” system to control people’s movements and curb the spread of the coronavirus. The automatically generated quick response codes, commonly abbreviated to QR codes, are assigned to citizens on their smartphones as an indicator of their health status. The color of these codes — in red, amber or green — decides whether users can leave home, use public transport and enter public places.
The health codes can also serve as a tracker for people’s movements, as residents have their QR codes scanned as they enter public places. Once a confirmed case is diagnosed, authorities are able to quickly trace where the patient has been and identify people who have been in contact with that individual.
Hangzhou, a coastal city about a hundred miles southwest of Shanghai, was among the first cities to use the health code system to decide which citizens should go into quarantine. But now, the city government says it wants the “health code” to be “normalized” — meaning it could be here to stay well beyond the pandemic.
The score can be affected by your daily activities: 15,000 steps of daily exercise will increase your score by 5 points, 200 milliliters of baijiu — a sorghum-based Chinese liquor known for its high alcohol content — will lower your score by 1.5 points, five cigarettes will cost you 3 points, and 7.5 hours of sleep will add one point to your score, the demonstration shows.
There might also be a “group health score” for companies and residential committees, Sun said. A demonstration shows the health score for a company can be based on factors such as how much its employees exercise and sleep per day, how many employees have conducted annual health checkups, and how well chronic disease are controlled among its employees.
Sun did not give details on how the data will be collected, whether the app will be compulsory, or how the score will affect people’s daily life and business operations.
Hangzhou, home to China’s e-commerce and internet giant Alibaba, has been at the forefront of applying big data and digital technology to urban management. At the moment, it is unclear if the city’s health score proposal will be adopted and rolled out nationwide like the coronavirus QR codes.
Some Chinese internet users, however, are already questioning the feasibility of the plan, pointing to technical difficulties such as how to convert different medical conditions into scores and come up with a workable algorithm.