What you need to know about Singapore's TraceTogether tokens

TraceTogether tokens. (Photo: Facebook page of Vivian Balakrishnan)
TraceTogether tokens. (Photo: Facebook page of Vivian Balakrishnan)

SINGAPORE — The authorities began distributing TraceTogether tokens on Monday (14 September) as part of efforts at tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are some things you need to know about the devices.

Where can I collect the tokens?

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

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

The authorities will progressively roll the devices out nationwide and aim to complete distribution by November.

How do the devices work?

Similar to the TraceTogether app for smartphones, which is available for download on Google Play and the App Store, the tokens work by exchanging short-distance Bluetooth signals between other participating tokens or app users in close proximity.

The tokens will encrypt the data of nearby devices and information older than 25 days will be deleted automatically.

The devices do not record users’ locations. Personal details are also not stored on the tokens.

If an owner tests positive for COVID-19, the authorities will decrypt the data collected to conduct contact tracing.

The tokens are also waterproof and come with a battery life of six months.

Where will the devices be used?

By December, the deployment and use of the TraceTogether app or token will be mandatory across a wide range of venues.

Since August, TraceTogether has been trialled at selected venues where people are likely to be in close contact for long periods, or where human traffic is high.

Until mid-November, it will also be piloted in venues with activities that involve larger groups of people. These include live performances, business events, places of worship conducting congregational and other worship services with more than 100 people and cinemas.

Here are the venues which TraceTogether will eventually be deployed in:

  1. Workplaces – offices, factories;

  2. Schools and educational institutions;

  3. Preschools and student care centres;

  4. Healthcare facilities – hospitals, clinics, TCM clinics, complementary healthcare facilities;

  5. Residential and community-based care facilities – nursing homes, Senior Activity Centres, Senior Care Centres, Day Activity Centres for persons with disabilities;

  6. Places of worship;

  7. Funeral parlours;

  8. Hotels;

  9. Banks and financial institutions;

  10. Retail, personal and food & beverage (F&B) services – malls and supermarkets, selected popular wet markets, F&B outlets for dine-in customers, large retail outlets (bigger than 930 sqm or 10,000 sqft), personal care services (hairdressers, barbers, spas, beauty and wellness), facilities providing pet services;

  11. Tuition and enrichment, training centres, and other training/ class venues;

  12. Sports and recreation – sports and fitness centres including gyms and studios, country and recreation clubs;

  13. Cultural and entertainment venues – libraries, museums, exhibitions and showrooms, cinemas, attractions, and other entertainment venues;

  14. Home-based businesses that involve customers entering one’s home for a prolonged period, such as private dining and hairdressing services;

  15. Event venues – function halls/rooms, event lawn.

Why is the government doing this?

About 2.4 million people, or 40 per cent of the total resident population, have downloaded the TraceTogether app. But not all users switch it on throughout the day. Some users may experience issues with the app. And some older residents may not use smartphones.

Minister-in-charge of Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan said last week, “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.”

With the tokens, the government hopes that 70 per cent of the total population will use TraceTogether, making contact tracing for COVID-19 more efficient and effective.

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