With more people expected to stream into Singapore as borders are gradually reopened, the authorities are using technology to make sure the likelihood of them spreading Covid-19 to the community is kept to the minimum.
Key to this are new wearable monitoring devices to ensure those coming into the country stay at home as mandated by the authorities.
All travellers entering here from 11.59pm next Monday and serving their stay-home notice (SHN) outside of dedicated facilities are required to wear such devices, which will alert the authorities if they leave their homes.
The devices resemble wristwatches and come equipped with Bluetooth or GPS technology, and have to be worn throughout the typically 14-day stay-home period.
The new measure will affect citizens, permanent residents, long-term pass holders, work pass holders and their dependants. Children aged 12 and younger are exempted.
In a joint statement yesterday, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and the Manpower and Education ministries said that the devices will complement existing ways of ensuring SHN rules are observed.
These include text messages, voice and video calls, and house visits by enforcement officers.
Travellers will be issued the devices at the checkpoints after clearing immigration. They will then need to activate it and register on a mobile app once they reach their place of residence.
Notifications may be sent through this app and should be acknowledged in a timely manner, said the authorities.
If the device is not activated, the authorities will contact them and provide support or take enforcement action, as needed.
Attempts to leave the place of residence or tamper with the electronic device will trigger an alert to the authorities.
They will then investigate un-less the person is leaving his residence for a Covid-19 test, by appointment.
Number of people serving stay-home notices who were monitored by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority during the peak period of late March.
After the SHN is fully served, the device should be deactivated and thrown away or returned, according to instructions.
Those who tamper with or remove the device during the SHN period can be fined up to $10,000 or jailed for up to six months, or can face both punishments. For foreigners, the ICA and the Manpower Ministry can also revoke or shorten the validity of their work permits and work passes.
No data is stored in the devices, and any data, such as location and personal details, sent to the authorities is protected by end-to-end certificate-based encryption.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Tan Hoe Koon, deputy director of ICA's intelligence division, said the device will help the SHN regime remain effective and sustainable as more travellers enter the country.
DAC Tan did not give an estimate of how many devices will be issued, but said that ICA monitored about 40,000 people on SHN during the peak period of late March.
The new devices can service this number comfortably, he added.
Currently, officers conduct home visits about every other day to enforce SHN rules, he said.
"With the number of people on SHN going up, we do not have unlimited resources to keep up with alternate-day visits," he told reporters at a media conference at Changi Airport yesterday.
With the device, officers will visit those on SHN once, shortly after they enter Singapore, and thereafter only when there are issues or potential violations of rules, he said.
He added that the authorities, including the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX), had been sourcing for technological solutions since as early as April. Development and testing of the wearable monitoring device started in May.
Details on the cost or manufacturing of the devices are not available, but The Straits Times understands that they are produced by a third-party company, with modifications made by ICA and HTX according to operational requirements.
Asked why the device was not introduced earlier, DAC Tan said: "The moment we realised the (pandemic) is not a short sprint... we began exploring a solution that could sustain us to maintain this regime for the long term."