askST: Do you still need to use TraceTogether? Should you delete the app or return the token?

Some venues still maintain VDS, and would need you to check in with the TraceTogether app or token when you enter. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Government is stepping down the use of TraceTogether as a Covid-19 contact-tracing tool from Tuesday (April 26).

This is because the Ministry of Health (MOH) will stop issuing health risk notices to close contacts of Covid-19 patients from that day due to the improved coronavirus situation here.

People who have contracted Covid-19 no longer have to submit details of household members online, although the ministry urged the public to be socially responsible.

SafeEntry check-ins to verify a person's Covid-19 vaccination status will also not be required at most venues.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung last Friday advised people who are not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to take precautions, such as avoiding crowded places, so that they minimise their chances of getting the virus and falling severely ill.

Here is what you need to know about the changes to contact tracing.

Q: Do I still need to upload my TraceTogether data or submit my TraceTogether token if I have tested positive for Covid-19?

A: You do not have to do so from Tuesday, since health risk notices will no longer be issued.

Q: Do I still have to check in using the TraceTogether app or token at venues?

A: Most venues will no longer need you to check in using the TraceTogether app or token because vaccination-differentiated safe management measures (VDS) have been lifted in most cases. Under VDS, unvaccinated people are often not allowed to enter specific premises or participate in certain activities, unless conditions are met.

For example, places of worship, malls, retail shops and supermarkets are venues that no longer need to maintain VDS.

But some venues still maintain VDS, and would need you to check in with the TraceTogether app or token when you enter, or prove your vaccination status in other ways.

They include places where large events are held with more than 500 participants at a time, such as large-scale gala dinners, weddings, company dinner and dance events, and conference dinners. These are potentially super-spreading events.

VDS checks will also continue at nightlife establishments where dancing among patrons is one of the intended activities. This is because many people gather at these nightspots and there is prolonged and close interaction among them.

In addition, VDS will still be needed for food and beverage establishments - including restaurants, coffee shops and hawker centres - because these are mask-off settings regularly frequented by many members of the public, including people who may be vulnerable.

But dining venues will not require their customers to check in with the TraceTogether app or token. This is already the case for hawker centres and coffee shops.

Diners will instead be expected to follow the rules on their own. Dining outlets have to continue to inform customers, such as through notices, that only fully vaccinated patrons can dine in.

However, random spot checks by service staff and enforcement officers on diners' vaccination status will still be done to ensure compliance.

The patrons' vaccination status can be ascertained in several ways: by checking the TraceTogether app or token, or by verifying it in the HealthHub app, or even by displaying a hard copy of the HealthHub Covid-19 vaccination report or original hard copy vaccination card. More details can be found in the document at this site.

Q: Can I delete the TraceTogether app and return the TraceTogether token?

A: MOH strongly encourages the public to keep the TraceTogether app on their phones and their TraceTogether tokens.

The ministry explained that TraceTogether and SafeEntry contact-tracing capabilities will still be maintained so that VDS checks can be done where needed, such as in venues hosting large-scale events and some nightlife spots.

It will also allow the ministry to quickly step up contact tracing and VDS checks if they are needed again, such as if there are new Covid-19 variants of concern.

The TraceTogether tokens are properties of the Government. Physically damaging or making alterations to the tokens without authorisation can be an offence.

You can return your old or unused tokens, as well as faulty ones, at TraceTogether vending machines or selected community centres. Visit Government of Singapore's website for details.

Q: How might my TraceTogether and SafeEntry data be used if they are not needed as much now?

A: The TraceTogether token and app have been pre-programmed and might still collect data of your contacts in the background. But Mr Ong has said that the data will stay only in your token or smartphone, and be purged after 25 days.

Mr Ong added that all SafeEntry data to a premise or event where VDS is needed will not be retained and will be purged within a day.

Even so, MOH said that TraceTogether and SafeEntry data might still be used by police and law enforcement officers for criminal investigations into serious offences. This is covered under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act.

On Feb 2 last year, Parliament passed a Bill restricting the use of personal contact-tracing data in criminal investigations to only serious crimes, such as murder and terrorism.

MOH said that to safeguard the public, the police must be able to use TraceTogether and SafeEntry data to bring perpetrators to justice and seek redress for victims.

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