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China Pushes For QR Codes Based International Travel Due To COVID-19

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The Chinese President Xi Jinping is calling for a ‘global mechanism’ that would use QR codes to open up international travel. President Xi said this at the G20 summit, an online meeting of heads of state from the world’s 20 largest economies.


The G20 summit was held in by Saudi Arabia over the weekend. China’s president revealed his belief that QR codes can be useful in establishing travelers health status.


“We need to further harmonise policies and standards and establish ‘fast tracks’ to facilitate the orderly flow of people,” he said. He also said the codes could be used to recognise “health certificates based on nucleic acid test results”, according to a transcript published by Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

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China uses QR code apps based on a combination of big data and information submitted by the users to help contain the virus on the country’s mainland. Financial technology giant Ant Financial developed the technology which is also available via its main app Alipay and WeChat.


These QR codes are bar codes that mobile phones can also read. China has been increasingly using the tech since February 2020. Users get a traffic-light style health code, with a green code that allows them to travel freely. An orange or red code means that they need to quarantine for up to two weeks.


President Xi also hopes that other countries will join the ‘mechanism’. He believes it will help restore “global and industrial supply chains” and the “liberalisation of trade of key medical supplies“.


Human Rights advocates, however, warn that the codes could be used for state’s political ambitions. The executive director of Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth says; “An initial focus on health could easily become a Trojan Horse for broader political monitoring and exclusion”.


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