BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese truck drivers hoping to outwit COVID-19 inspectors are faking travel histories to get through checkpoints or avoid quarantine, state media reported, as weary citizens struggle with restrictions more than two years after the pandemic began.
While some truckers try to use hi-tech sleight of hand to dodge the restrictions, some desperate travelers are simply trying to hide in their cars to get where they want to go.
Authorities across China have tightened COVID curbs this month as the highly transmissible Omicron variant spreads, triggering lockdowns in Shanghai and the whole province of Jilin.
Many regional authorities have barred travelers, including long-distance truck drivers, from high-risk areas, while some have to spend time in quarantine, complicating lives and disrupting China’s sprawling transport system.
Not surprisingly, there are people who try to game the system.
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In Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province and a major northeastern transport hub, nearly 100 truckers have been punished for trying to trick inspectors with mobile phones loaded with fake travel histories, state media reported.
Often one phone, tucked away, contains a driver’s real travel history, including locations with positive COVID cases marked with a star, while another phone, ready for presentation at checkpoints, shows a fake travel history with not a star in sight.
Truckers for a logistics company aiming to get into another Liaoning city were caught trying to key phone numbers of people with “clean” travel histories, provided by their employer, into their phones to fool inspectors, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.
Some travelers hoping to reach the capital, Beijing, have hired substitute drivers with untainted travel histories to drive their vehicles through checkpoints, while they sneak through the woods beside the road on foot to reclaim their cars on the other side, authorities said.
Substitute drivers can earn up to 2,000 yuan ($315) per trip, the Beijing city government said this week.
Other travelers resort to just trying hiding in their cars to get through checkpoints, it said.
Last week, a traveler returning to Jiaxing city, near Shanghai, got a substitute driver to help him get there.
He was confirmed to be a coronavirus positive a few days later, police said.
($1 = 6.3552 Chinese Yuan Renminbi)
(Reporting by Ryan Woo; Editing by Robert Birsel)
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