TraceTogether app's upgrade will make contact tracing smoother for tourists

The app will come with a new feature to record and validate their passport numbers during app registration.
The app will come with a new feature to record and validate their passport numbers during app registration.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Contact tracing app TraceTogether will be upgraded by next month to allow tourists to do SafeEntry check-ins at shopping malls and dining venues as Singapore gets ready to move to phase three of its reopening.

The app, which is mandatory for overseas visitors, will come with a new feature to record and validate their passport numbers during app registration.

Validation will be instant by checking against the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority's database.

"Just as we need to validate users' NRIC (during app sign-up), we need to check that the visitor has entered a valid passport number, and that he has indeed entered Singapore," a spokesman for the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office told The Straits Times.

"We are expecting to complete the process of passport validation some time in December. Visitors will need to update to the latest version of the app," she added.

With this addition, tourists will be able to scan the SafeEntry QR code using their TraceTogether app. By the end of the year, this will be the only way for them to enter most premises.

The move comes as Singapore gradually reopens its borders to leisure travellers, including those from Hong Kong, Brunei, New Zealand and Vietnam.

There is no QR code scanning function in the app version tourists currently use, unlike the one that is available to Singapore citizens and permanent residents.

In the absence of the QR code scanner, tourists have been asked to show their passports and the TraceTogether app on their phones. Venue operators also need to manually enter passport details in a computer or a mobile device running the SafeEntry (Business) application to record the visit.

Tourists have also been able to use their mobile phone camera to scan the SafeEntry QR code to fill up a Web form to enter malls, restaurants and cinemas.

But the Web form will be phased out when Singapore switches to a new Covid-19 management tool, TraceTogether-only SafeEntry, for mandatory digital contact tracing.

Similarly, Singaporeans and permanent residents will not be able to use their SingPass mobile app to scan the SafeEntry QR code to enter places. And venue operators will not scan barcodes on NRICs to allow people entry.

The nationwide switchover is slated to start at the end of the year to allow Singapore to host more travellers, business activities and social gatherings.

TraceTogether-only SafeEntry combines what are now two separate systems: TraceTogether, to identify those in close contact with Covid-19 patients; and SafeEntry - which digitally checks in visitors at most venues - to determine which premises have been visited by those infected with the coronavirus.

Australian citizen Ian Khoo, 33, who is in Singapore for a few months to visit his family, said he looks forward to using the new version of the TraceTogether app.

"I'm glad the check-in process will be streamlined soon," said Mr Khoo, who works in the banking sector there.

He uses his phone's camera to scan the SafeEntry QR code, but soon this will no longer be an option.

He has used his passport to enter places before, but said: "The process of showing the venue operator my passport and having them record my details holds up the queue; it's not as quick and easy as scanning a QR code or NRIC."