March 23, 2020 / 11:09 AM / 18 days ago

Tencent rolls out new health tracking code aimed at China's students

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings has rolled out a new tracking app aimed at students who are preparing to return to school, the latest tool in the country’s coronavirus combat arsenal as the outbreak shows signs of easing.

FILE PHOTO: People visit Tencent's booth at the World 5G Exhibition in Beijing, China November 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

Fuxuema, which translates as “school resumption code”, allows students to fill out their daily temperatures and obtain a colour-based QR-code, a type of barcode, on their mobile phones that would show their health status, Tencent said in a statement on its social media account late on Friday.

Embedded in Tencent’s popular messaging app WeChat, the mini-app is similar to health code systems launched last month by Tencent and rival Alibaba Group Holding’s Alipay which Chinese residents across the country now have to use to travel within and out of cities.

Schools in China have been shut since the end of January but some provinces such as Qinghai and Guizhou started to set reopening dates in early March as the number of new locally transmitted cases in the country fell.

However, schools in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai have yet to say when they will ask students to return.

Tencent said Fuxuema would allow teachers and relevant education departments to track the health status of their students and parents would be allow to apply for the colour-based codes for their child.

“When schools reopen, no matter whether it’s primary schools, middle schools or universities, they can put up a school access barcode at the gate, and let parents and outsiders scan via WeChat to enter school without hassle ... (and) further manage people who enter school,” Tencent said in its post.

Mainland China on Monday reported a drop in its daily tally of new coronavirus cases, reversing four straight days of increases, as the capital, Beijing, ramped up measures to contain the number of infections arriving from abroad.

Some social media users praised Tencent’s new code, saying said it would be useful in efforts to combat the virus, but others lamented that it would just introduce another layer of inconvenience.

“How many different codes do we have now? This is the prelude to human beings being hijacked by machines,” said one commentator on China’s Twitter-like Weibo.

Reporting by Pei Li and Brenda Goh; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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