Singapore

Pilot programme to enhance contact tracing

Checking in at venues with free token or mobile app will be required from next month

A pilot programme requiring people to use either free TraceTogether tokens or the mobile app to check in at certain venues will be rolled out next month.

For a start, those attending larger-scale business-to-business events, such as meetings and conferences, will have to use either the TraceTogether tokens or app to log in to the national digital check-in system SafeEntry.

This initiative will be expanded over time, after more tokens have been distributed to the public, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a statement yesterday.

Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan said the move supplements SafeEntry check-in data with TraceTogether proximity data, which improves the contact tracing process.

MOH said the initiative will help mitigate the risk of large coronavirus clusters forming, and could allow for a safer increase in capacity limits at events and premises with any potential future easing of measures.

Yesterday's announcement follows an earlier move by the Government to increase the number of participants allowed at exhibitions and conferences to 250.

The Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGO) will work with MOH to ensure these tokens are available onsite for people without the app.

The authorities had trialled this at an event held at the end of last month, attended physically by Singapore-based attendees, and virtually by international attendees.

Over time, the scheme will be expanded to other venues where there may be close interaction between people, where masks may not be worn at all times due to the type of activities involved, and where there is high human traffic that is harder to monitor.

TraceTogether can facilitate rapid and comprehensive contact tracing to stem the spread of the virus, the authorities noted.

The programme, which works via the exchange of short-distance Bluetooth signals between tokens and mobile phones with the app installed, has enabled contact tracing teams to reduce the time taken to identify and quarantine a close contact from four days to fewer than two days, they added.

Addressing reporters during a press conference by the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19, Dr Balakrishnan noted that the TraceTogether app has been downloaded 2.4 million times.

This accounts for about 40 per cent of the population, but it is still insufficient, he said.

"Not everyone's app is on all the time. And therein lies the nub of the challenge, because the more people are actively on TraceTogether, exponentially the protective effect increases."

The Government is therefore giving out TraceTogether tokens nationwide to make things more convenient and accessible for people who may not have smartphones, or prefer not to use the app.

The distribution will start on Monday at 20 community centres in Jalan Besar and Tanjong Pagar.

Residents can go to the TokenGoWhere website or refer to community notice boards and digital display panels for more information.

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