China has rolled out an app that lets people check whether they have been in close contact with someone infected by the coronavirus.
The “close contact detector,” as BBC puts it, notifies users if they have had exchanges with any individuals who have been confirmed or suspected of carrying the virus. All users need to do is scan a QR code with an app like Alipay or WeChat. People at risk are then advised to stay at home or inform local health authorities.
Once their phone number is linked, users are asked to fill in their name and ID number. The app can then be used to check the status of up to three ID numbers. The app, which was developed in cooperation by the government and the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, relies on data from from the health and transport authorities.
Although the invasiveness of the software certainly raises questions about the obtrusive surveillance practices within the country, experts believe citizens won’t see the new app as controversial, considering the extent of the epidemic.
As of now, the government defines “close contact” situations as people who work closely together (sharing a classroom, an office, or a home), people who’ve been exposed carriers of the virus (medical professionals or family members), and passengers who have been on planes, trains, or other travel services used by infected individuals.
Meanwhile in New York, people can tap a robot for medical advice about the coronavirus. While the robot doesn’t detect the virus, it’ll quiz people on a list of symptoms to determine how likely they are to be infected by the virus, according to Reuters.
The ultra-fast spread of the coronavirus has already put a dent in the earnings of tons of companies. It’s also making it more difficult for businesses to run as intended.
Citing fears of contamination, over a dozen companies have already pulled out of MWC, the world’s largest phone event scheduled to take place in Barcelona later this month. The list so far includes giants like Amazon, LG, Sony, and Rakuten, among others.