TraceTogether, SafeEntry to be used till vaccination-differentiated measures not needed: Janil

Dr Janil said TraceTogether and SafeEntry have allowed the authorities to quickly issue health risk warnings and notices. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - The TraceTogether and SafeEntry apps still play important roles in Singapore's Covid-19 response, and will continue to be used at least until vaccination-differentiated measures are no longer needed, said Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary on Thursday (March 3).

These technologies enable verification checks for entry into venues or activities where such measures are enforced, which is necessary to protect unvaccinated people, who have a higher risk of developing severe disease, Dr Janil told Parliament.

"We aim to keep rules and requirements simple and we regularly review the need for these. We will continue to rationalise and simplify our safe management measures," he said, responding to Mr Leon Perera (Aljunied GRC) of the Workers' Party.

Mr Perera had noted that the enforcement of TraceTogether and SafeEntry checks come with compliance burdens for businesses and asked what criteria the Health Ministry would use when deciding to phase them out.

Dr Janil said TraceTogether and SafeEntry have allowed the authorities to quickly issue health risk warnings and notices, which have kept fatalities low and slowed the spread of Covid-19 by enabling people to self-isolate and seek help early, proving that they are worth using despite the burden.

It is still too early to tell what the approach to phasing out these systems should be or when they will no longer be needed, he said.

"We need to wait until we no longer need vaccination-differentiated measures," Dr Janil said.

"We need to wait until we're quite sure that the pandemic and Covid-19 is no longer epidemic but endemic, and we have not reached that point yet."

Dr Janil added that it is hard to say when Singapore will reach that point, but until then, the easiest, cheapest and least burdensome way for businesses to enforce the prevailing measures is to continue using TraceTogether and SafeEntry.

Dr Janil also cited a British study that found automated contact tracing saves lives and prevents Covid-19 cases, adding that there is "every reason to believe the same is true here in Singapore".

He said: "If we extrapolate (the study) to our situation here, the estimate is that between September 2021 and January 2022, comparing similar data sets over those four or five months, the contact tracing approach that we've taken in Singapore may have saved about 290 deaths and slowed down the progression to avoid about 144,000 cases."

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