China Launches "Close Contact Detector" App so Citizens Can Be Reassured Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

The close contact detector can be accessed via other apps such as Weibo, Alipay, and QQ.
Fabienne Lang

The most recent measure China has undertaken to try and curb the coronavirus outbreak, as well as reassure its citizens, is an online platform that detects whether you've been in close contact with someone infected or suspected of being infected, with the coronavirus. 

Called the "close contact detector," the platform operates via popular apps such as Weibo, Alipay, and QQ. 


How does the platform work?

The platform uses big amounts of data on people's movements, and people's records from public authorities in order to find out if someone has within the last two weeks worked, lived, or traveled with someone suspected or confirmed of having the coronavirus. 

Maybe this is one of the few times China's diligent data recording of its citizens comes in handy.

Accessed via local apps such as Weibo, Alipay, and QQ, the close contact detector platform just requires a person to register their phone number, input their name and national I.D. number. Then, their movements are tracked against those of people who are infected to gauge their risk level. 

It's a lot of personal information sharing and may feel a bit like "Big Brother" is watching, but if it means more lives are saved, this may be an ideal solution. 

Particularly close attention is paid to public transport records, which include flights and trains, something quite easily recorded in China as each passenger has to input their I.D. number when booking a seat.

How are you considered "at risk?"

If you're seated either three rows in front of or three rows behind someone who is confirmed or suspected of having the coronavirus, you're deemed to be "at risk."

Flight attendants fall under the category as well.

The platform does not cover people who visit supermarkets or shopping malls, according to the makers, co-launched by the State Council, the National Health Commission, and China Electronics Technology Group Corporation. 

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Chinese cybersecurity laws are already under scrutiny, so we'll have to see how this new platform goes down. The number of infected people has increased to over 42,000, and more than 1,000 people in China have died because of the coronavirus. Perhaps platforms such as the "close contact detector" can help, if even a little.