Coronavirus pandemic

No need to avoid places visited by Covid-19 patients, says Gan

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at the MTF Covid-19 press conference on June 8, 2020.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at the MTF Covid-19 press conference on June 8, 2020.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

There is no need to worry about going to venues that Covid-19 patients have visited as these places are safe, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said yesterday.

He added that the Government releases information about these venues to encourage people who went to these places to watch out for symptoms.

Those who wish to visit these places - which have included supermarket outlets, offices, malls and Mustafa Centre - can do so as the venues would have been thoroughly disinfected, Mr Gan said at a news conference by the multi-ministry task force that he co-chairs.

"Once we identify the patient, and when there is a risk at the venue... we will do a thorough deep cleaning at the affected places to render them safe so that workers and family members can go back and continue where they are," said Mr Gan.

"So, for places like Mustafa Centre or shopping centres that he has been to, there is generally no risk... because (the patient is) no longer there."

The purpose of disclosing information about these venues is not to warn people against visiting them but, rather, to encourage people who have visited them before to monitor their health and get tested if they suspect that they have become infected.

This is especially so because contact tracing efforts here might not be fully exhaustive, given how the majority of people here do not use the national contact tracing app TraceTogether.

The app identifies people in close contact with a Covid-19 patient, via wireless Bluetooth technology. Nearby handsets exchange Bluetooth signals and log the interaction in the app.

"This (information) will help us to encourage people who have been there during that period of time to come forward if you are unwell so that we can administer the appropriate tests to determine whether you have been infected," Mr Gan said.

HOW TRACETOGETHER HELPS

It is in precisely those circumstances when you cannot remember when you were there that if you had the TraceTogether app on, running on your phone, or a device, and if you were in close proximity or prolonged close proximity as detected by Bluetooth - that is when the program would inform you or would alert you, and you can take the necessary precautions.

DR VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN, Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative.

Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan, who was also at the news conference yesterday, said that TraceTogether would come in useful in instances where people cannot remember if they had visited a venue that would have put them in close contact with an infected patient.

He had earlier given details about a new device called TraceTogether Token, which will allow those without mobile phones or who are not able to use the app to participate in contact tracing efforts here.

Hariz Baharudin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2020, with the headline 'No need to avoid places visited by Covid-19 patients, says Gan'. Print Edition | Subscribe