A volunteer teaches an old man how to use a cellphone in Hai’an, Jiangsu province, on Oct 25, 2018. [Photo/IC]

For days, a hashtag “Where is the warmth of the health code?” has been popular on domestic social media.

That question emerged because on Jan 6, in Fushun city, Northeast China’s Liaoning province, a bus driver refused to allow an elderly man to board because he could not show his health code, a smartphone app that tracks a person’s movements and shows he/she has little risk of being infected with the novel coronavirus.

The man was without a smartphone so he could not show the code. He said he could register to prove he was healthy, but the driver refused and some passengers shouted rather rudely at the man as the bus was delayed. The man had to get off the bus in the end.

The health code is meant to make life more convenient for people. But it has proved to be inconvenient for those who do not possess a smartphone or have difficulties using one.

According to a report by China Internet Network Information, more than 60 million internet users, 6.7 percent of the total in China, were aged 60 or above in April last year. However, the total number of senior citizens in China, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, is 253.88 million.

That means at least 190 million seniors have little access to the internet. They do not use a computer or smartphone, and there is no way for them to get a health code and show it.

The train station in Wuxi, East China’s Jiangsu province, offers an example of how to address this problem. It has a special entryway for those who cannot show a health code for whatever reason. When they show their ID card, the staff can check to see if they are at low risk.

That requires more staff, which might increase the cost. However, it is worth it because it avoids causing inconvenience to those that deserve more consideration.

One day after the man was not allowed to board the bus, when a media outlet inquired about the incident, the local bus company said it had already corrected the rules and senior citizens would be able to travel without showing their health code. Their health status and level of risk will be checked via other means.

That’s a good and swift response. To the passengers who shouted to the elderly man to get off and those who might be tempted to do the same, they need to be told to be patient with senior citizens.

You will be old yourself one day.