A girl band in Shanghai is China’s latest weapon against COVID-19 – Screen Shot
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A girl band in Shanghai is China’s latest weapon against COVID-19

China has vaccinated one of the largest cohorts globally, with 243,9 million doses given out at the end of April 2021. But compared to the 246 million doses administered in the US, and considering its population of 1.4 billion—China still has some ground to travel before reaching its 40 per cent target by June. Where there is a will, there is a way, and China’s pulling all the can-do attitude in somewhat surprising ways, even if many of its citizens feel the vaccine isn’t needed because of the tightly controlled systems put in place. So, how exactly is China accelerating the rollout of vaccinations?

Dangling the incentive biscuit has been tried and tested all over the world, such as free eggs or store coupons (a few perks given by a Shanghai district) or free Krispy Kreme doughnuts in the US, but on 30 April, the Hongkou district launched a very different kind of campaign, with the Chinese girl band SNH48 as its ambassadors.

As stated by Quartz, the poster above reads “[let’s] build the immunity barrier together, both you and I can help.” On the top left of the poster, there are also keywords from China’s “core socialist values,” a doctrine promoted by the Party to enhance citizens’ faith in the moral values of the country, including prosperity, democracy, and civility, among others.

SNH48’s involvement in persuading the Hongkou district’s citizens to have their vaccines already seems to be working. A mobile vaccination clinic outside the band’s theatre was originally planned to be set up this week, but was then cancelled due to the overwhelming response from the band’s fans. According to a post by Shanghai Star48 Culture & Media on Weibo, “The people who made appointments to be vaccinated at the clinic far exceeded the amount it could accommodate.”

A change of stance has since been generated: those who get the vaccine this week can then get a special stamp “building immunity barrier together” at the theatre group, from two of the band’s members, but only those who have received the vaccine during that week. SNH48’s members are young girls that were selected and put together through auditions to form multiple singing and dance teams, and one of the major selling points to this particular team, was their ‘closeness’ to their fans.

The band members have regularly held activities such as ‘handshaking gatherings’, where their fans can mingle with them in the flesh. They also have stamps that go on a passport (not a real one, but a pamphlet that fans purchase from the company to collect seals from the band at events). A certain number of these seals can earn the fans rewards, such as posing for a picture with band members.

Other ways that China is promoting COVID-19 vaccinations

Besides the genius girl band idea, China’s Shandong province is creating other ways to entice people to get their shots: those who have received both doses of the vaccine will be given a golden “health code,” which is a coloured digital barcode indicating people’s health status through a smartphone app, which originally was adopted after the very first COVID-19 outbreaks in 2020. The code usually has three colours: green, red and yellow, but the new code incentive has added a new feature, a golden frame and emojis of vaccination shots as well as a shield to the green code (which means the person is allowed to move around freely and as they please).

It’s safe to say that the way China is dealing with COVID-19 vaccinations is not just accelerating the jabs themselves, although time will prove that one, but also accelerating what looks like an entirely new era of cultural behaviour. Not sure about you, but I’ll be keeping up to date with their progress as the rest of the world may sooner or later follow suit.

Getting a COVID vaccine is now a dating app flex guaranteed to make you more desirable

Dating app bios have had a love-hate relationship with the pandemic. From humble toilet paper brags to puns about face masks and Purell gels, it seems as if dating profile bios have arrived at their latest pit-stop: COVID vaccination.

Keywords like “covid vaccinated” and “fully vaccinated” have started dominating bios as Tinder reported a 258 per cent rise in users mentioning the word “vaccine” between September and December 2020. OKCupid, a dating app that matches members based on multiple-choice questions, notes a 137 per cent increase in mentions of the keyword between November 2020 and January 2021.

Conversations about proper sanitation and precautions were already a turn-on for dating app users since the beginning of the pandemic. “Two out of three people are already having the ‘COVID conversation’ before they meet,” a spokesperson for Bumble explained in an interview with Tyla. “Before meeting up, 63 per cent of people had a conversation with their dates about the venue, mask-wearing and physical contact, with 80 per cent of people saying that this helped get to know their date better and feel safer.”

The latest trend of vaccination bios seems to further add on to a user’s ‘oomph’ factor. OKCupid includes a set of questions about vaccinations that users can choose to answer in order to match with potential suitors. The question “will you get the COVID-19 vaccine?” has gotten 45,000 correspondents with over 70 per cent positive responses. According to Tyla, these users are getting 2.3 times more ‘likes’ and 1.8 times more matches than those who said no.

“Not only is the vaccine becoming the biggest talking point on dating apps, it’s actually becoming a huge deal-breaker,” Michael Kaye, a spokesperson for OKCupid tells Insider. Further data collected by the app suggests that 40 per cent of millennials and gen Z users would cancel a date with someone who refuses to take the vaccine with the figure 18 per cent higher for women when compared to men.

Though most countries currently prioritise older citizens who are at the highest risk against the virus, majority of these vaccinated-hence-desirable users include key workers like health professionals and those with certain medical conditions who have been given priority in their country. Young vaccine trial participants and US citizens who have been queuing up outside pharmacies for leftover doses are among the dating app users who have been able to get a shot before others.

The trend, despite its seemingly-harmless digital nature, is not free from criticism. One of the downsides pointed out is the lack of verification of the information provided. Users could easily lie about their immunisation status online to engage with their matches who deem their interaction ‘safe’. Dating apps do not verify if someone has been immunised or not from their side either. Insider reports that these apps would not be HIPAA-compliant if they shared health information in the US.

However, the trend might signal the initiation of a greater good: winning the war against COVID-19 itself—and anti-vaxxers too. The desirability quotient related with vaccination statuses on these apps might push more users to get vaccinated, creating new dating norms like ‘vaccinate and chill’ in the process. Eagerness to get back onto the dating market additionally helps push the trend in a positive light. Overall, its ultimate benefits seem to outweigh the immediate negatives. So brace yourselves to spot profile bios in the lines of ‘Let’s rub our anti-bodies together’ soon on your favourite dating apps.