Cina, vaccino (La Presse)

Chinese Pay High Price for Effective Fight Against COVID

China seemingly has the COVID-19 pandemic well under control these days. Hardly any new infections have been recorded and only a few restrictions remain in place. However, when new cases arise, measures are taken immediately and without any regard to civil rights.

Snapshot from China

People are once again living their lives in China’s major cities and beyond. The shops are packed, and the clubs are bustling. Based on the statistics, the risk of being infected is only shallow in the world’s most populous country. The official figures of day by day new infections remain steady in the single-digit range. New infections are mostly based on individuals returning to China, thus importing the virus.

In order to enter restaurants, banks, doctors, or other authorities, individuals’ temperature is often still measured, but otherwise, everything is normal again in China. Department stores, bars, or gyms are all open, so are schools and universities’ education facilities.

Temperature App

All that is required is the aforementioned temperature check or show the health code on the phone when one enters bars or clubs. The health code is generated via a smartphone app. It has been omnipresent for individuals in China since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. The app estimates a personal risk from the area and wireless network data: green, yellow, or red. Without the app and without the green code, it is nearly unattainable to move around in China. As a result, the authorities can track individuals’ precise location at all times, even more, accurate than previously.

One usually requires a green code, especially at train stations, airports, and motorway toll stations. In short: whenever one moves across city and provincial borders within China. However, no uniform Corona app in China exists.

Every local administration, every city administration are working independently, causing somewhat chaotic moments regarding the app. The reciprocal trust of the respective Chinese authorities is unmistakably not that splendid. If several on-site infections are confirmed somewhere in China these days, then the excitement is great. When two new cases became known a few days ago in Manzhouli, the television news deserved extensive coverage in the far north of the country.

Mass Testing

As a practice, mass tests are then immediately administered on-site. Hundreds of thousands to several million individuals are tested for the virus in only a few days. The cities involved will be largely isolated from the rest of the country for the time being.

Many large-scale testing and consistent follow-up of contacts are the most important means of the Chinese authorities fighting against the coronavirus.

Personnel and financial commitment are also basically irrelevant. Moreover, the almost entirely closed external borders also play a pivotal role. Most importantly, however, data protection and fundamental personal rights do not play a role in China’s dictatorship. The authorities create digital movement profiles of individuals and utilize the images from surveillance cameras, all without worrying about the rule of law.

Unlike in Europe, there are no public debates: neither about the coronavirus measures nor about the pandemic’s origin. Both of these facts have undoubtedly made it easier for China to get the pandemic under control.

In fact, the latter allowed China to tackle the pandemic with swiftness and efficiency that is globally unparalleled and equally impressive, particularly in regard to its coastal megacities.

It can undoubtedly be argued, however, while some European and Americans even consider masks as a form of oppression, the fight against the virus in China has come at the expense of even less individual right in the Land of the Rising Sun and hence marks – as so often – a high price.