TraceTogether tokens to be distributed from Monday

Widespread use will improve contact tracing as S'pore prepares to allow bigger gatherings

Distribution of the TraceTogether tokens will start at 20 community centres and clubs in Jalan Besar and Tanjong Pagar from Sept 14, 2020.
Distribution of the TraceTogether tokens will start at 20 community centres and clubs in Jalan Besar and Tanjong Pagar from Sept 14, 2020.PHOTOS: SMART NATION AND DIGITAL GOVERNMENT GROUP, ST FILE

TraceTogether tokens will be distributed nationwide starting next Monday, as Singapore strengthens its contact tracing network in preparation for allowing larger gatherings while it opens up further.

A pilot scheme requiring people to use either the free tokens or the mobile app to check in at certain venues will also start next month, said Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday at a press conference by the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic.

Noting that the app has been downloaded 2.4 million times so far, he added: "But we actually still want to push participation in this programme because this is one of those things where the more people we have on board, the more effective the level of protection afforded to all of us."

The locally developed TraceTogether programme helps with contact tracing efforts by identifying nearby phones with the app installed, enabling the authorities to identify a person's close contacts if needed.

Residents in Jalan Besar and Tanjong Pagar will be the first to get the tokens. These districts have a larger proportion of seniors who are more vulnerable to Covid-19 and may have difficulty using the existing TraceTogether app, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) yesterday.

These changes come as Singapore prepares to allow bigger meetings and conferences with up to 250 participants, and will mean that SafeEntry check-in data is supplemented with proximity data from TraceTogether.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "For these sorts of events where you're going to have more people interacting, it's not enough to just know who has been in this building, say, in the last hour. You actually want to know, of that group of people who happen to be in the building, who actually has been in close proximity to each other."

This approach could allow for a safer increase in capacity limits at larger events and premises with any potential future easing of measures, MOH added.

Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the Covid-19 task force with Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, said enforcement agencies will also be stepping up spot checks at food and beverage outlets.

They will take immediate action if rules are broken, including issuing fines or even ordering a business to shut if the breach is serious enough. This applies even to first-time offenders, Mr Wong added.

He noted that breaches of the rules happen "literally on a daily basis", including people drinking after 10.30pm or organising gatherings of more than five in private rooms at restaurants.

"The operators who are doing this are causing unnecessary risk to their diners, and I think it's also not fair for the majority of operators who are complying with the rules," Mr Wong said.

 
 
 

More senior-centric activities will also be allowed to resume, although these will be limited to small groups of five, said Mr Gan.

These include programmes organised by the People's Association and Health Promotion Board, as well as similar activities in nursing homes and senior care centres.

"Group activities are an integral part of the senior-centric programmes as they help address our seniors' psycho-social needs and contribute to their overall well-being," Mr Gan added.

"The situation in Singapore is stable for the time being, but let us continue to keep up our vigilance and not let the virus have a chance to spread."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2020, with the headline 'TraceTogether tokens to be distributed from Monday'. Print Edition | Subscribe