TraceTogether data should not be used to grant or deny access to premises, say authorities

Businesses such as Dream Cruises had required customers to show them their TraceTogether records. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Businesses should not use people's exposure alert information on the TraceTogether app to grant or deny access to premises, said the Ministry of Health and the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office in a joint statement on Friday (May 7).

Although people may receive alerts to monitor their health after being in the general vicinity of a Covid-19 case, the risk is "very small" as they may not have interacted with the case at close quarters given the space of some establishments, such as malls, the statement said.

Both agencies are responding to reports of business owners turning away visitors and customers whose TraceTogether records showed that they have been in close proximity to Covid-19 cases.

These businesses, such as ComfortDelGro Driving Centre (CDC) and cruise operators Royal Caribbean and Dream Cruises, had required customers to show them their TraceTogether records.

"Persons who are deemed close contacts of a case with Covid-19, identified through TraceTogether and contact tracing interviews, would have already received a quarantine order," said the joint statement.

"Persons who happen to be in the same general vicinity as a case with Covid-19 may receive alerts to monitor their health for 14 days and be advised to see a doctor promptly should they develop symptoms of acute respiratory infection. However, the risk is very small as they may not have interacted with the case at close quarters given the size of the mall.

"Such persons are not restricted from continuing with their regular activities," it added.

The agencies said that SafeEntry data helps those with Covid-19 better recall where they had been and who they were with. It shortens the contact tracing process and prevents contact tracers from missing out venues if cases fail to recall their past movements accurately.

Meanwhile, ComfortDelGro Driving Centre has removed a notice on its website which announced that entry to the driving centre would be denied if visitors' TraceTogether app showed that they had been in close proximity to Covid-19 cases.

A new notice was put up on Friday morning, informing students and visitors that the TraceTogether app or token will be required for entry into the driving centre from May 17. Check-in with identification cards will discontinue from June 1.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Dream Cruises had announced that passengers of World Dream whose TraceTogether app indicated possible exposure are prohibited from sailing between Friday and May 19. Those who were at Tan Tock Seng Hospital from April 18 onwards are also barred.

Royal Caribbean had also sent out messages to inform its customers that those with possible exposures flagged on their TraceTogether data will be denied boarding.

On Friday, both cruise companies updated their advisories to reverse the ban on such passengers.

Mr Michael Goh, president of Dream Cruises, told The Straits Times those whose TraceTogether App showed possible exposure or have been to TTSH from April 18 are encouraged to postpone their sailing dates beyond May 19.

Only those who have been in close contact with Covid-19 cases and have been under a Stay Home Notice or quarantine order are prohibited to board the cruise. The changes were updated in its Facebook post on Friday afternoon.

Likewise, Royal Caribbean International said in a statement to ST: "We strongly encourage all guests with possible exposure alerts to not sail for the safety of other passengers and crew on board."

The Singapore Tourism Board said it understands that the cruise lines have tightened their boarding policies as a prudent measure.

"The cruise lines have spared no effort to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all their guests and crew, upholding themselves to standards of care above and beyond the authorities' requirements and responding quickly to changes in safe management measures," it added.

But it also said cruise lines should adhere to the guidance from the MOH and the SNDGO regarding the use of data from the TraceTogether app.

Additional reporting by Ang Qing

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.