COVID-19: Singapore to begin distributing TraceTogether tokens next Monday

Wong Casandra
·Senior Reporter
·4-min read

SINGAPORE — TraceTogether tokens will be distributed nationwide starting from next Monday (14 September), and the Singapore government aims to complete the distribution by November.

The COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce announced the move in a virtual media conference on Wednesday (9 September), adding that the token – of which usage is not mandatory – is free for all Singapore residents, Singaporeans and permanent residents alike.

Minister-in-charge of Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan said that 10,000 tokens were first distributed to seniors end-June, ahead of next week’s wider rollout of the devices.

Distribution of the tokens will start with the Jalan Besar and Tanjong Pagar regions, where there is a higher concentration of elderly who may have more challenges using the TraceTogether app and are more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Residents can go to the TokenGoWhere website for more details on the collection sites and timing.

It will also be progressively rolled out nationwide, Dr Balakrishnan, who is also Foreign Affairs Minister, said.

He also noted that about 2.4 million people have downloaded the TraceTogether app but that not all users switch it on throughout the day.

On the move to provide tokens, he added, “And therein lies the nub of the challenge, because the more people are actively on TraceTogether, exponentially, the protective effect increases. So, even at today with 2.4 million downloads, in my opinion, that's still not sufficient.”

Second Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng said authorities will also pilot the usage of the contact tracing tokens at “several suitable dormitories” and are working on operationalising it early next month.

“This will greatly increase the speed and precision of contact tracing. It will also allow for more targeted containment and quarantine,” said Dr Tan, who is also Second Minister for Trade and Industry and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office

On returning to a new normal with more activities allowed, Dr Balakrishnan noted, “It requires intensive and recurrent testing, in the case of the dorms and the community. It requires intensive and meticulous contact tracing ability. If we can get these two variables maximise, it will be possible for us to resume a more normal life and still do it safely.”

The next few months “will be a period of very careful calibration”, and in terms of digital tools, to make using them “without inconvenience” and “without being intrusive”, he stressed.

TraceTogether-only SafeEntry system at selected venues

Authorities will also be piloting the deployment of a SafeEntry system that requires the use of either the TraceTogether app or token to check-in at selected venues in October, said Dr Balakrishnan.

The “TraceTogether-only SafeEntry” system will first be piloted at selected venues and will be expanded over time, once the national distribution of the tokens is well underway.

These include venues where there may be larger groups coming together, especially where there is close interaction among attendees; or where masks may not be worn at all times due to the nature of the activities.

“I need to emphasise that putting together these two functionalities, which is venue, and proximity, will still protect the privacy of the person, but it will enhance the level of protection for the people concerned,” said Dr Balakrishnan.

The system was trialled at the first Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) event held at the end of August, with more pilots starting progressively from this September.

Self-check and SMS services to alert COVID-19 venues

From Thursday, the authorities will introduce a new self-check service and SMS service 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, said Dr Balakrishnan.

The self-check service will be available on the TraceTogether app. Individuals can also access the Self-Check service via SingPass Mobile, or wereyouthere.safeentry.gov.sg.

In addition, SMS alerts will be sent to a smaller group of individuals who were at locations assessed to pose a higher risk of transmission at the same time as COVID-19 cases. These include dining places and gyms where people do not wear masks for extended periods of time.

“I want to emphasise that if indeed you are at any risk, don't worry, we will come and notify you and we will advise you on the appropriate precautions to take,” Dr Balakrishnan stressed.

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