Macau Health Code App that Tracked Residents During Pandemic Disabled

The Macau Health Code mobile application that tracked residents and visitors amid the COVID-19 pandemic has been terminated.

Macau Health Code app COVID-19 China
A government worker presents a pamphlet instructing a resident on how to download and install the Macau Health Code app. Macau this week disabled the health tracking app and its COVID-19 data. (Image: Asia Gaming Brief)

Being a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China, Macau residents faced draconian pandemic response policies from early 2020 through last year. Macau only announced the cessation of its coronavirus entry rules, including testing, quarantine, and observation mandates, in January.

The easing came after China President Xi Jinping in late November lifted his controversial “zero-COVID” program that initiated lockdowns and travel restrictions when clusters of positive COVID tests were identified. The scheme sought to isolate infected persons and prevent the spread of the respiratory virus.

Xi’s zero-COVID reversal was a result of escalating protests among mainlanders and a flurry of calls from international leaders urging the world’s most populated country to return to some sense of normalcy. With travelers no longer required to present negative coronavirus tests to enter the casino enclave — the only place in China where casinos are allowed — Macau has done away with the mobile app it used to keep tabs on its residents and visitors.

Health Code App Disabled

Macau in early 2020 debuted its Health Code app. The tech tool was required for anyone in Macau, or anyone trying to enter or depart the region, to tend to most necessities and leisure activities. During the past three years, the SAR required residents and guests to upload their test results to the mobile app, which would then display an associated color based on that individual’s latest health assessment.

The Macau Health Code app was required for people to enter businesses like restaurants and grocery stores. It was also the tracking database for the Macau government to see who had received COVID-19 vaccinations.

The Health Code app additionally allowed Macau to conduct mass testing blitzes after new cases were detected.

Despite being part of China through the People’s Republic’s “one country, two systems” constitutional principle, Macau has its own borders and could isolate itself during peak spreads. As a result, the region managed to remain COVID-free throughout much of the pandemic. But after staying relatively clear, Macau began reporting positive COVID-19 infections last June. The Macau government ordered the city’s casinos to close for a week last July following the outbreaks.

It was only the second time that the region’s casinos, the economic heartbeat of Macau, were forced to shutter because of the pandemic. The first government-ordered gaming shutdown ran for 15 days in February 2020.

Data Supposedly Erased

Macau government officials say the data collected from the Health Code has been permanently erased.

All personal information of the Health Code, including reporting records, application registration information, records of residents’ uploaded trips, venue code records, and other data has been completely erased,” a statement read from the Macau Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Center.

Though the Health Code app data has reportedly been erased, the local government says the app will remain in a suspended status for the foreseeable future. That will allow the government to reimplement the health tracking platform in the event of a new pandemic or worsening COVID-19 situation.

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