An app developed by a state-run maker of military electronics lets Chinese citizens enter their name and national ID number and be told whether they may have come in contact, on a plane, train or bus, with a carrier of the virus.
It is too early to say whether Chinas strategy has contained the outbreak. With large numbers of new infections being reported every day, the government has clear reasons for minimizing human contact and domestic travel. But experts say that in epidemics, overbearing measures can backfire, scaring infected people into hiding and making the outbreak harder to control.
Public health relies on public trust, said Alexandra L. Phelan, a specialist in global health law at Georgetown University. These community-level quarantines and the arbitrary nature in which theyre being imposed and tied up with the police and other officials is essentially making them into punitive actions a coercive action rather than a public health action.
In Zhejiang, one of Chinas most developed provinces and home to Alibaba and other technology companies, people have written on social media about being denied entry to their own apartments in Hangzhou, the provincial capital. Coming home from out of town, they say, they were asked to produce documents from landlords and employers or be left on the street.
For Nada Sun, who was visiting family in Wenzhou, a coastal city in Zhejiang, a health scare turned into a mandatory quarantine.
When Ms. Sun, 29, complained of tightness in her chest this month, her mother told her to go to the hospital. She did not have a high fever, yet the hospital gave her a battery of checks. All came back negative for the virus.