China to Scrap COVID-Tracing Digital “Itinerary Card”

Operators of China’s digital “itinerary card,” a smartphone function that has played a key role in authorities’ pursuit of zero COVID, announced on December 12 that the service will officially go offline at 0:00 on December 13.

This “itinerary card” (行程卡 xíngchéng kǎ) is an online application created by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology alongside three state-owned telecommunications companies: China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom. It mainly tracks the travel information of mobile phone users and provides technical support for the implementation of large-scale pandemic prevention and quarantine measures.

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Information on the smartphone program includes a user’s encrypted mobile phone number, updated itinerary details, all countries or regions visited by the user in the past 14 days, and Chinese cities in which the user stayed for longer than four hours.

The application was first launched in March 2020. Previously, users could display their information by opening a WeChat mini program and filling in their mobile phone number and a verification code. On July 8, 2022, the coverage time range of the query results on the itinerary card was adjusted from 14 days to seven days.

For longer than two and a half years, this itinerary card and an accompanying local “health code” have been indispensable for all Chinese residents needing to travel, shop or see a doctor. Many people have been restricted from traveling or entering desired venues due to these digital passes not meeting requirements.

Most Chinese web users expressed excitement about the upcoming discontinuation of the itinerary card service. One commented, “It’s less than 24 hours before it goes offline. Thank you for protecting me for three years. Let’s keep a souvenir screenshot and let’s never meet again.” Another wrote, “Will the next one [to go offline] be the health code?”