Viewpoint: Track and trace – Why China has entered a post-COVID period while US and many other countries remain mired in crisis

inn china qr health code
A passenger wearing a face mask shows a green QR code on his phone to show his health status to security upon arrival at Wenzhou railway station. Credit: Noel Celis/AFP

On [October 19, China] posted positive economic growth for the second quarter in a row, underlining how speedily the world’s second-largest economy has recovered. That comes in the wake of an apparently successful experiment with allowing mass domestic travel, as millions of people criss-crossed China for the Golden Week national holiday.

For many in Europe, China’s approach to the coronavirus is characterized by the initial draconian, 76-day lockdown seen in Wuhan.

China’s success in controlling the coronavirus is not so much a product of those early control measures — though these have been utilized effectively to halt regional flare-ups — but how the country handles things after people are allowed to move around again.

In particular, China’s ability to track and trace cases across the country whenever there is the suggestion of a new cluster of infections has enabled the government to respond quickly and bring local epidemics under control.

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This has included a sophisticated color-sorted “health code” system to track people’s movements. A clear (green) bill of health and corresponding QR code is required to enter many businesses.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) noted as far back as February that “much of the global community is not yet ready, in mindset and materially, to implement the measures that have been employed to contain Covid-19 in China.”

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