Target for 70% of residents to use TraceTogether met

Contact tracing scheme has over 3.8m users; schools to distribute tokens to students

The token distribution exercise at Kampong Kembangan Community Club on Dec 23, 2020.
The token distribution exercise at Kampong Kembangan Community Club on Dec 23, 2020.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

About 70 per cent of Singapore residents are now using the TraceTogether app or tokens, fulfilling a target that the authorities wanted to meet before the country entered phase three of its reopening.

But TraceTogether SafeEntry will not be made mandatory until everyone has had the chance to collect the token or download the app, Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday.

Dr Balakrishnan, who is also Foreign Minister, said that as at Monday, there was 70 per cent participation in the national contact tracing programme, with more than 3.8 million users.

"There's been more than two million people who have downloaded the app and have registered and are using it," he told reporters on the sidelines of a token distribution exercise at Kampong Kembangan Community Club in Eunos.

"In addition, since Sept 14, when we started the distribution of the TraceTogether tokens, we have distributed so far about 1.75 million tokens," he added.

Apart from the 70 per cent TraceTogether target, Singapore also wanted safe management compliance and sufficient testing capabilities before entering phase three of reopening its economy.

Phase three will kick in next Monday when, among other things, capacity limits in public places like malls, attractions and places of worship will be eased.

SafeEntry is now mandated at all these places, but when everyone has had the chance to obtain the TraceTogether token or download the app by early next year, these must be used instead. The app includes a function to scan SafeEntry QR codes, while the tokens sport a QR code with a similar function.

Yesterday, Dr Balakrishnan also said schools will be distributing the tokens to students so they will be able to participate in contact tracing, and to avoid a rush for the tokens. In a release yesterday, the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group said more details on this will be shared later, and students do not need to have tokens when school reopens next year.

"We will also be distributing tokens through the schools... Those of you with children or students, don't worry. You don't need to rush down to the community clubs. You can also collect a token in school in due time," said Dr Balakrishnan.

The free tokens have been distributed to the public since September in community centres/clubs (CCs). Since late October, they have been distributed one constituency at a time to prevent long queues from forming. Token collection began at the six remaining CCs yesterday.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan demonstrating using the TraceTogether token with a SafeEntry Gateway at Kampong Kembangan Community Club. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Dr Balakrishnan said that the Government has increased its order for the tokens, and that by the end of February, it would have manufactured up to five million tokens.

"Over the next few weeks and months, as the additional stocks of tokens come in, we will reopen the CCs which currently are not distributing tokens. So I want to emphasise that there is no need to rush," he added.

The TraceTogether app and token work by exchanging Bluetooth signals with other TraceTogether apps or tokens nearby. This proximity data, which is encrypted and stored for 25 days before being automatically deleted, allows for quick contact tracing.

Dr Balakrishnan said that while there may be four different designs of the tokens that are being distributed, they all work the same way.

The designs may have changed, but he stressed that the only difference is in the look, and not the function of the device.

Correction note: This story has been edited for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2020, with the headline 'Target for 70% of residents to use TraceTogether met'. Subscribe