Chinese President Xi Jinping is urging other nations to adopt a contact tracing system that uses QR codes to track travel during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to state-run news agency Xinhua's transcript of his speech at the G20 Leaders' Summit held virtually Saturday, Xi said the world needs to "harmonize politics" and establish "fast tracks" to monitor COVID-19 transmissions.
To ensure the "smooth functioning" of the world economy amid an epidemic, countries must coordinate a uniform set of policies and standards, Xi pressed.
"China has proposed a global mechanism on the mutual recognition of health certificates based on nucleic acid test results in the form of internationally accepted QR codes," Xi stated. "We hope more countries will join this mechanism. We also support the G20 in carrying out institutionalized cooperation and building global cooperation networks to facilitate the flow of personnel and goods."
CNN reported that China introduced the use of QR-based health certificates earlier this year to store data of an individual's travel and health history.
Users are issued a color according to their potential COVID-19 exposure, which dictates whether they should be in quarantine or allowed out in public spaces; colors emulate traffic lights—such as green, then amber, and finally red.
Citizens sign up for the smartphone software through the wallet app, Alipay. The Alipay Health Code was first implemented in the eastern city of Hangzhou—a project by the local government with the aid of Ant Financial, a sister company of the e-commerce giant Alibaba.
The New York Times found that once a user grants the software access to their personal data, the “reportInfoandLocationToPolice” part of the programme reportedly sends a person’s location, city name, and identifying code number to a servers. However, users are not aware that the app is connected to the police.
China is not the only nation to use a contact tracer app to try to fight off a second wave and regulate the lives of its citizens.
Over the summer, Japan unveiled the Contact-Confirming Application (COCOA) designed by Microsoft this year, Reuters reported. In the first week after its June debut, downloads reached 4.4 million.
If an individual tests positive for the coronavirus, Bluetooth signals detect any prior contact with nearby users that lasted more than 15 minutes and notify them.
Singapore was among the first with its TraceTogether programme launched in March. However, privacy concerns hampered its uptake, prompting a switch to wearable devices.