As China Eases Zero-COVID, Tech Firms Take Bigger Role in Fighting Virus • TechCrunch


China’s abrupt relaxation of its zero-COVID policy last week has led to a spike in cases and growing fears of the virus. Over the past three years, the authority has used big data to monitor people’s movements and thus control the spread of the virus. Now that the government is gradually rolling back some of these tech restrictions, individuals are turning to private tech companies to manage the pandemic.

On the eve of the pandemic in 2020, DXY, an online community for healthcare professionals, quickly introduced a fact-check feature to combat COVID misinformation. But those grassroots efforts quickly faded into the background, as COVID cases remained rare in China and treatments took place at centralized government-run facilities.

The Chinese authority has also rolled out a suite of COVID prevention apps that have become a digital pass for people to get around daily. These apps track the health status of individuals through diligent and mandatory COVID testing and monitor their potential exposure to the virus through their travel history.

China is now removing some of these measures. The much-hated travel-tracking app was dropped on Monday, bringing some relief to those wary of the tool being misused to control one’s life. Major cities like Guangzhou and Beijing have advised patients with mild or no symptoms of COVID to self-isolate at home, ending a nearly three-year-old practice in which those infected with COVID were sent to makeshift quarantine hospitals regardless of their symptoms.

As the virus is expected to spread in the coming weeks, with people left to their own devices, Chinese tech companies are coming up with initiatives to help navigate a new wave of infections.

Over the past week, more than one million users have sought remote medical advice from doctors through JD Health, the health arm of Chinese e-commerce giant, a spokesperson for the company said. company at TechCrunch. The types of remote health care provided by the platform include advice on COVID prevention, chronic disease management, recovery plans, and psychological counseling. Asymptomatic people and those with mild symptoms can also get prescriptions through JD Health.

JD Health launched the online COVID Clinic shortly after China’s instant announcement to phase out some of its more draconian COVID policies. Baidu’s map has started showing real-time stock status of antigen test kits at local pharmacies, demand for which has increased after China scrapped mandatory and heavily subsidized nucleic acid testing. According to JD’s online marketplace, trading volume for rapid test kits increased 344% week-over-week on December 10.

Thanks in part to China’s persistence on zero-COVID, some of the infection prevention infrastructure is already in place. Contactless ordering via smartphone in restaurants is already a standard across the country. Pick-up kiosks that temporarily store food deliveries are also commonplace, eliminating the need for customers and couriers to meet in person.

Some sectors are less resilient to the impact of COVID. The logistics industry is particularly under pressure as couriers are expected to be affected by the virus like the rest of society, while demand for express delivery increases as people rush to hoard medicines and isolated individuals count on grocery delivery. Factory bosses who fear outbreaks will halt manufacturing have invested in robots, but many find the costs of upgrading production lines too high in the short term, some said. them at TechCrunch.



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