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China Launches Coronavirus “Close Contact Detector” App

Dominique Adams


Chinese woman wearing virus protection mask

The app informs users if they have been near someone who has been confirmed or suspected of having the virus. 

The Chinese Government has launched an app that can alert users if they are at risk of catching the Coronavirus, which has infected 43,104 people and killed 1,018.

The app was announced on the website of China’s National Health Commission. Having originated in Wuhan in China, the virus has spread to 28 countries around the world with the bulk of cases reported in China. Those who are identified as being at risk or have symptoms are being advised to stay at home and inform local health authorities.

To request information, users must scan a QR code and submit their name, phone number and government issued ID number. Once they have submitted their details, every registered phone number can be used to check the status of up to three ID numbers, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Close contact is defined by the Chinese Government as:

  • People who work closely together, share a classroom or live in the same home
  • Medical staff, family members or people who have been in close contact with patients and their caregivers
  • Passengers and crew who have been on planes, trains and other forms of transport with an infected person

The app is the latest move by the Chinese government to utilise its extensive surveillance network to contain the virus. According to the state news report, the app is the product of a collaboration between government agencies to “ensure accurate, reliable and authoritative data”.

While the details of how the app works remains unclear, the report said that data from a number of government agencies was used to create the app. The General Office of the State Council, the National Health Commission, and state-owned business China Electronics Technology Group Corp (CETC) are among those that contributed data.


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In the report, CETC said it created the app with the government contributed-data and that it had also received data from the Ministry of Transport, China Railway and the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

Hong Kong-based technology lawyer at the law firm DLA Piper, Carolyn Bigg, told the BBC: “In China, and across Asia, data is not seen as something to be locked down, it’s something that can be used. Provided it’s done in a transparent way, with consent where needed.

“From a Chinese perspective this is a really useful service for people. It’s a really powerful tool that really shows the power of data being used for good.”

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Dominique Adams

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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