SINGAPORE - A total of $13.8 million has been spent on developing and acquiring the SafeEntry digital check-in system and TraceTogether app and tokens, as at September.
Included in the cost of these digital contact tracing tools is $2.4 million to develop the TraceTogether app, $5.2 million for developing SafeEntry, and $6.2 million for the development and procurement of TraceTogether tokens.
The TraceTogether token is a wearable device. Similar to the TraceTogether mobile app, the token works by exchanging Bluetooth signals with other nearby tokens or phones running the TraceTogether app.
So far, TraceTogether has helped to identify about 25,000 close contacts of Covid-19 cases, of which 160 later tested positive for Covid-19, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong in a written reply to parliamentary questions from Mr Yip Hon Weng (Yio Chu Kang) and Ms He Ting Ru (Sengkang GRC) on Monday (Nov 2).
He said: "It has enabled the early identification and isolation of cases, faster than would have been possible with manual tracing."
Mr Gan added that the actual amount spent on contact tracing tools will depend on several factors, including the actual number of Singapore residents who need a token.
The Government will also continue to invest in enhancing the SafeEntry and TraceTogether tools, such as looking at ways to improve the convenience of SafeEntry check-ins, and acquiring more tokens to meet needs, he said.
The authorities have started to integrate the SafeEntry feature into TraceTogether tokens, and will continue to study how the two systems can be more deeply integrated, added Mr Gan.
Currently, users can scan the QR code on the back of the TraceTogether token to enter a venue that uses the SafeEntry system, instead of having to use their NRIC, he said.
About 570,000 users have collected their tokens as at Nov 1, and about 2.7 million have downloaded the TraceTogether app, said Mr Gan, who is co-chair of the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19.
It was previously announced that from Nov 16, all cinemas will require visitors to check in with the TraceTogether app or token. But the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office said on Monday (Nov 2) that those who have not yet downloaded the app or collected a token will still be able to check in with their identity card.
The compulsory use of the TraceTogether app or token to check in will also be extended to restaurants, workplaces, schools and shopping malls by the end of December, as Singapore prepares to enter the third phase of reopening.
Responding to Ms He, who asked why TraceTogether will be made compulsory for certain situations, Mr Gan said there is a need to ensure comprehensive coverage of digital tools to avoid a resurgence of cases like in some parts of the world that do not have a robust contact tracing system.
He said: "The effectiveness of TraceTogether increases as more users come onboard. We therefore encourage more Singaporeans to join the TraceTogether programme, either by downloading the app or collecting and wearing the token."
Singaporeans are advised to collect their TraceTogether tokens from community clubs in their area, and use the Token Go Where website to see when the schedule for distribution will begin.
While the target number of tokens to be produced is now about 2.7 million, this number can be adjusted according to demand, Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan had said previously.
Correction note: The story has been updated for clarity.