In fear of spatiotemporal overlap: Coping with the infrastructure of zero-COVID

N. W.


This paper draws attention to the ways in which the policy of zero covid disciplines spatiotemporal proximity to control the spread of coronavirus. The infrastructure of surveillance deployed for contact-tracing models degrees of spatiotemporal closeness—interpreted and measured by cellular signals from personal mobile phones—and generates health codes linked to the national identification system. The negative result of a nucleic acid test, usually obtained within the past 24 or 48 hours, also became a prerequisite for one to access hospitals, schools, train stations, highways, and most other institutions. To cope with the protocols, residents actively strategize daily activities by mapping out a changing geography of risk. Based on personal experience living through the partial lockdown of Suzhou, I examine the ways in which the protocol regulating spatiotemporal proximity exploits people’s capacity to cope with the threat of lockdowns and how it can be fatal for vulnerable groups.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/727779