A Global Health Passport: China Has a Prototype
November 02, 2020

November 2,  2020

Rick Foristel, Director of Webster University China

China’s Health QR Codes Reduced COVID Spread and Allowed China to Open

Shanghai, Beijing, Taipei, Chengdu – all maintain city-wide mobile apps that allow each area to track individuals who have applied.   China Health Code apps are available from the private companies, WeChat, and Alipay.  The private companies move collected phone user information on to city big data centers.  I registered through Ali months ago and flash the “green health QR” to gain access to public and private buildings, including clinics and museums.   


QR Health Code. Green to Go.


Masked ballroom dancing at Zhong Shan Park in Shanghai.

The Importance of Social Media & Big Data

On a recent trip to Chengdu, about 1000 miles west of Shanghai, I registered for their system.  By the time I landed in Chengdu, my green code was working in Chengdu.  The Chengdu system knew I was flying to Chengdu from safe Shanghai   If I had visited a city that was having new case issues, I might have had to quarantine when arriving back in Shanghai.   

My Ali Health QR has always shown a kind of Kelly green.  People carry their various kinds of mobile phones with them.   Almost everyone in China uses either WeChat, Alipay, or both, and that data is trackable.  My information goes to Alibaba, because that’s where I registered.   The health codes are just another easy-to-use smartphone app. 

微信图片_20200831140217.jpgConstant crowd of masked shoppers at Shanghai COSTCO.

Masks Remain Essential

China has been able to greatly diminish the spread of COVID-19.   It has taken more than cell phone tracking to stop COVID.  Face masks had been mandatory, even outside.  Recently in Shanghai you can see masks-off in parks and other very open areas, where there is real distancing, but mandatory in grocery stores, and in any part of the subway system, the rest of the transit system and in airplanes.   Enter the subway, and the attendants will remind you to put-that-mask-on, while checking your body temperature.   


Farmer’s market merchant sporting just arrived salmon.

Citizen Cooperation

In addition to the QR Health Code, I fill out a data form each day on my wellness, temperature – no fever – and conditions of those around me.    Once completed, I send the digital document, yet another WeChat app, to our China partner university, where they collect my information with thousands of other instructors, administrators and students.  If I forget to report by app, I get a call, “hey, or you ok?  You didn’t report in this morning.”  

微信图片_20200831140222.jpgParents social distancing at a Shanghai high school.  

Big Effort -- Huge Returns

These registrations, and daily reports, masks, restricted gatherings all seem like a huge daily effort, but consider this:  Mainland China has had only 4,634 deaths and 85,940 cases.  (October 30, 2020).  


QR codes at airport check-in desk. All passengers need to report to destination government before boarding.

The U.S. Has Big Potential for Health QR Codes

Abbott Laboratories, Google and Apple have introduced a system to rival China’s effort.   It consists of a 15-minute test for coronavirus.  The negative test results can show on the “American green code,” through Apple or Google systems – NAVICA app -- and show that the user is clear and green to go.  Abbott believes the new rapid response test should be 97%.   

The health QR codes can help communities, schools, and offices to open and keep open.   


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86 (21) 6536 3559
369 North Zhong Shan 1 Road,
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86 (21) 6536 3559
369 North Zhong Shan 1 Road,
Hongkou district, Shanghai 200083