Coronavirus: Wearable dongle among options being explored to boost tracking

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said contact tracing app TraceTogether is being improved.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said contact tracing app TraceTogether is being improved.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

A contact tracing dongle that those without smartphones can take along when they go out is among the tech options that the Government is currently exploring as it seeks to boosts its ability to track the coronavirus outbreak.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said during a virtual press conference yesterday that swiftly identifying contacts of those infected will be key as Singapore's economy opens up, adding that the authorities are looking to have several options in place when the circuit breaker eases next month.

"By the time we get to post-June 1, we will have some solutions in place to have faster contact tracing," said Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling the coronavirus outbreak.

The idea would be to identify the contacts of an infected person more quickly and "issue quarantine orders on an electronic platform instantly".

Asked if the use of contact tracing app TraceTogether would be made compulsory for employees going back to work, Mr Wong said: "When we are ready with a solution, we will announce what that solution is, and we will indeed want everyone to have that solution in place."

TraceTogether is being improved, he said, even as other applications and solutions that do not require smartphones are being considered.

"We are also looking at possibilities, like a wearable, a dongle that people can carry with them when they go out. So for those without smartphones, the possibility of being able to track them remains - for contact tracing purposes.

"So there are a few potential solutions that are being explored. Even right now, the technical teams are discussing intensively with Apple, Google and other tech providers.

"When we are ready with a solution, we will explain what that solution is, and we will want everyone to pick it up."

 
 
 
 

The digital check-in system, known as SafeEntry, has been taken up by essential-sector businesses such as supermarkets, clinics and food and beverage outlets. Users can check in and out of a venue using the SafeEntry portal - by scanning a QR code with their own mobile devices.

Mr Wong said the Government will soon publish a list of specific places that need to adopt the SafeEntry system. By and large, it will be made compulsory for all workplaces from next Tuesday onwards, so long as they are open, he said.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Health confirmed 768 new cases of Covid-19 in Singapore, bringing the total count to 21,707. Foreign workers staying in dormitories continue to make up the bulk of new coronavirus cases here.

Some businesses, such as selected food businesses and hairdressers, are allowed to reopen from next Tuesday, subject to restrictions.

Mr Wong urged these firms to put in place measures for a safe working environment, and not be in a rush to raise their shutters.

He said: "Do not be in a rush to reopen your business and neglect the important safe management practices that you have to put in place first.

"If the business premises do not have the necessary precautions and safeguards in place, then we may have to ask you to stop work anyway, and there will be penalties imposed."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2020, with the headline 'Wearable dongle among options being explored to boost tracking'. Subscribe