SINGAPORE: Singapore will step down the use of contact tracing measures TraceTogether and SafeEntry, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Friday (Apr 22).
The minister had announced at a COVID-19 Multi-Ministry Taskforce virtual press conference that vaccination-differentiated safe management measures (VDS) will be eased.
From Apr 26, VDS will be removed from all settings except for events with more than 500 participants at any one time, nightlife establishments where patrons dance, and food & beverage outlets.
Authorities will also stop issuing health risk notices (HRN), he said. These were among various relaxation of measures announced by the committee.
“As we stand down VDS for various settings such as malls, supermarkets, places of worship … venue owners can deactivate their SafeEntry operations,” said Mr Ong.
“However, where VDS still applies … SafeEntry check-in will still be required to verify the vaccination and test status of the participants.”
As for restaurants, coffee shops and hawker centres, VDS applies but there will be no SafeEntry check-ins. Instead, there will be random checks on individuals by service staff and enforcement officers.
This is already the practice for hawker centres and coffee shops and will now extend to restaurants.
“The onus is on the patrons and customers to ensure that they are fully vaccinated before dining in F&B establishment,” he said.
“So overall, given this posture, we will see significant reduction in SafeEntry check-in points all across the island.”
He said that this will reduce costs of operation and is another “key psychological step” towards resuming normalcy.
Mr Ong also said that as HRNs will no longer be issued, COVID-19 cases need not upload their TraceTogether data from Apr 26.
“We will step down the use of TT as a contact tracing tool,” said the minister.
But he urged people to continue to keep their token or the app in their phone in case there is a need to reactivate them again.
Mr Ong explained that the TraceTogether token or app have been pre-programmed and will continue to collect data of a person's contacts in the background. The data is automatically purged after 25 days.
He said that the other purpose of TraceTogether is, in conjunction with SafeEntry, to verify one's vaccination status when checking into a venue that requires VDS.
"This is another reason to keep the TT app on your smartphone and retain your TT token - in case you want to go to a nightclub or you go to a gala dinner or wedding where VDS applies," he said.
"However, we will restrict this application now to purely verifying your vaccination status. All SafeEntry data to a premise or event will not be retained and they will be purged within a day."
“Given the risk over the horizon, we should not declare a ‘Freedom Day’ until the pandemic is truly over. Instead, we will step down but not dismantle our measures completely,” he said.
“By keeping certain levels of precaution we remind ourselves that the pandemic is not over and we retain the ability to reactivate selected measures if and when the situation requires.”
He said that he expects the “new posture” to last for several months, as long as the situation remains stable.
MOH said that generated TT or SafeEntry data may continue to be used by police officers and law enforcement officers for criminal investigations and proceedings in respect of serious offences.
MOH also said that it will stop free community Antigen Rapid Testing and weekend Acute Respiratory Infection testing.
With the declining case numbers and easing of load at the Public Health Preparedness Clinics, the free tests will cease from Apr 26. Paid ART testing will still be available for members of the public at test centres, GP clinics or via tele-ART providers.
Watch the full news conference, including the Q&A session with journalists: