China’s General Office of the State Council, National Health Commission, and China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) have come together to develop a service to help users figure out if they’ve been in close contact with anybody with the new coronavirus - now known as COVID-19. With the virus being new, scientists are still unclear about its properties and do not have a cure yet. If the virus does spread before symptoms arise, this service will prove useful for containing further spread.
To use the service, users need to enter their name, phone number, and ID number. It'll then let users know if they came into close contact with an infected person. Each registered phone number can inquire for three ID numbers, this is helpful for those without mobile devices who want to check if they could have been exposed to the virus.
Confusingly, Xinhua refers to the service as an app. In fact it's not a standalone app that you have to download from the App Store or one of the Android app stores, instead, you access it through QQ, Alipay, or WeChat using a QR code.
While it’s impossible to check all close contact, users will be able to check their number against people they work with, share a classroom with, or live with. Medical staff, family members, and others will be able to find out if they were in close contact with patients in a closed environment, the same room, or with caregivers. Those who have used public transport will also be able to check against people they’ve travelled with.
Explaining what close contact means with regards to air travel, Xinhua says those in the same row or three rows back or forward your seat are deemed to be close contact, flight attendants are also considered close contact. In another example, it said those in a fully air-conditioned train are in close contact if they shared the same compartment.
According to official figures, the number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus has reached 45,204. The total death figure is being reported as 1,116, while those who have recovered total 5,030.