SINGAPORE: The Government will distribute TraceTogether tokens to all Singapore residents from Sep 14, as authorities aim to enhance the existing contact tracing regime with a new system.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Wednesday (Sep 9) that it will pilot the deployment of SafeEntry that requires the use of either the TraceTogether app or token to check in at venues.
This will be tested out first at venues where there are larger groups coming together, especially when attendees have to interact closely with one another or where masks may not be worn all the time due to the nature of the activities.
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“Supplementing SafeEntry with proximity data from TT (TraceTogether) will enhance safety for participants, as they will be ensured of coverage under the TT programme,” MOH wrote in their press release.
“This will ensure better confidence in mitigating the risk of formation of large clusters, and could allow for a safer increase in capacity limits at these events and premises with any potential future easing of measures,” the ministry added.
In a separate press release, MOH and the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office said this arrangement was trialled at a Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) events held at the end of August.
More pilots will start progressively from October at larger-scale business-to-business events, before the programme expands further to include venues such as F&B outlets, cinemas, gyms and certain workplaces.
At these places, a visitor either has to scan the venue's QR code using the TraceTogether app on their mobile phone, or have the venue employee scan the QR code on the token.
Speaking at a COVID-19 multi-ministry task force press conference, Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative Vivian Balakrishnan said that the speed of contact tracing is key at this phase of the Government’s operations.
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“In the last few months, because of the increasing use of digital tools and data from SafeEntry and TraceTogether, we’ve been able to reduce the time needed to identify and isolate close contacts of positive cases from about three to four days in the past. Now, for most cases, it’s less than a day,” Dr Balakrishnan said.
“So the point is that speed matters,” he added.
To implement this process, the Government will be distributing free TraceTogether tokens from Sep 14 till November to all Singapore residents.
Singaporeans are encouraged to either download the TraceTogether app on their mobile phone or to collect the token.
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Right now, the TraceTogether programme is an app designed to support contact tracing efforts by using Bluetooth to identify other TraceTogether users nearby. Using it is currently voluntary for Singapore residents.
“A higher adoption rate makes the TT programme and contact tracing efforts more efficient and effective,” MOH said.
The tokens will first be given out in the Jalan Besar and Tanjong Pagar regions - where there is a higher concentration of elderly people who may have more challenges using the app and are more vulnerable to COVID-19 - before collection points are extended throughout the island gradually, MOH added.
About 10,000 tokens had already been distributed to senior citizens at the end of June.
Given that the elderly are most vulnerable to COVID-19, Singapore needs to have systems that are “fail-safe” and “convenient”, Dr Balakrishnan said.
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The Smart Nation office and MOH said that distribution of the tokens will begin at areas with more elderly people as they have a higher risk of catching COVID-19 and are also less likely to own a smart phone.
Residents can go to the TokenGoWhere website - token.gowhere.gov.sg - for more details on the collection sites and timing.
Dr Balakrishnan said that Singapore is now in a phase where it is beginning to open up, with conferences and business-related events resuming.
“And for these sort of events where you’re going to have more people interacting, it’s not enough to just know who has been in this building say in the last hour, you actually want to know of that group of people who happen to be in the building, who actually have been in close proximity to each other,” he said.
“In order to have that level of granularity, you do need proximity data.”
He added that “intensive and meticulous” contact tracing is required in the current situation.
“How can we return, not to the old normal, but the new normal where we can have activities, but to do it safely,” he said.
“It requires intensive and recurrent testing, in the case of the dorms. And in the case of the community, it requires intensive and meticulous contact tracing ability.”
“We’re trying to use these digital tools so that we can do this without inconvenience, without being intrusive,” he said.
ALERTS IF YOU WERE NEAR A COVID-19 CASE
The authorities will also be introducing a self-check and text message service from Sep 10 so that people can be alerted if they have visited the same venues at the same time as COVID-19 cases, based on their own SafeEntry records, the ministry announced.
The self-check service will be available on the TraceTogether app, SingPass Mobile or wereyouthere.safeentry.gov.sg.
READ: COVID-19: Vulnerable seniors to receive first batch of TraceTogether tokens from Jun 28
SMS alerts will be sent to a smaller group of individuals who were at locations seen to pose a higher risk of transmission at the same time as COVID-19 cases as well.
This includes dining places and gyms where people do not wear masks for extended periods.
“These features will help everyone to play their part to stay ahead of the pandemic, and keep ourselves and our loved ones safe,” MOH said.
Watch the full press conference: