TraceTogether check-ins not compulsory yet, retailers told after some outlets turn on function too early

A TraceTogether sign seen at the entrance of a Toast Box outlet in Sixth Avenue on Jan 11, 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Retailers who have started to roll out TraceTogether-only check-ins have been told to hold off for now by the authorities, after many businesses around Singapore were found to have jumped the gun by switching on the function and putting up posters displaying the new requirements.

This meant that members of the public could not enter some establishments unless they used the TraceTogether app or token to check in.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) said on Friday (Jan 15) that all public venues are not required to implement TraceTogether-only SafeEntry at the moment - except for events or businesses that are part of ongoing pilots, such as cinemas, live performances and selected nightlife venues.

"TraceTogether-only SafeEntry will be implemented only after everyone has had a chance to collect a token in their constituencies, and a reasonable period of national distribution is achieved," the SNDGO said.

The SNDGO said various government agencies have been reaching out to businesses that have "mistakenly implemented" TraceTogether-only SafeEntry prematurely via e-mail to inform them to reverse the implementation and remove any TraceTogether-only posters or signs on display.

It did not respond to queries on how many such businesses there have been to date.

Checks by ST in Bukit Timah, Orchard, Tampines and at Jewel earlier this week found more than 40 retailers that had put up SafeEntry QR code posters with the words "TraceTogether Required" displayed.

The retailers ranged from food and beverage outlets, apparel shops and beauty product stores to a nail spa, wine shop and tuition centre.

But the majority of these still allowed other methods of SafeEntry, such as by scanning the QR code with smartphone cameras or with the SingPass app.

Of the establishments ST came across, only two - an 1855 The Bottle Shop outlet near Sixth Avenue and the Sultans barber shop in Sime Darby Centre - had TraceTogether-only SafeEntry activated.

Asked why the shop had done so when nationwide TraceTogether-only SafeEntry had not come into force, an 1855 The Bottle Shop employee told ST that instructions had come from "the office", a common refrain from employees of various other retailers that ST spoke to.

A SafeEntry sign at the entrance of 1855 The Bottle Shop at 17 Anamalai Avenue on Jan 11, 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

The Government had announced last October that compulsory TraceTogether-only SafeEntry would be rolled out nationwide by the end of last year, but this has been pushed back to some time early this year.

In an advisory on the latest SafeEntry requirements published on its website earlier this month, the Singapore Retailers Association (SRA) said that while it encouraged members to prepare for the roll-out of TraceTogether-only SafeEntry by printing out the new QR poster, the function should not be turned on at the moment.

Some shops displaying TraceTogether-only posters may have already turned TraceTogether-only SafeEntry off, which is done via the SafeEntry online portal for businesses.

Mrs Kinki Tan, a senior member of the staff at Korean beauty brand Laneige's Ion Orchard outlet, said the shop implemented TraceTogether-only SafeEntry last November. This lasted until the first week of January this year, when the TraceTogether-only function was turned off, although a poster displaying the requirement could still be seen when ST visited.

A TraceTogether-only SafeEntry sign at the Laneige store in Ion Orchard on Jan 14 2021. ST PHOTO: SHERLYN SIM

"During that period, quite a lot of customers (had not) downloaded the TraceTogether app yet. About three to four customers a day would walk away from our shop when they saw they had to download the app to enter," said Mrs Tan.

"Although there were some customers who were compliant, many aunties found it troublesome."

Mr Kelvin Soo, the assistant manager of the Jinjja Chicken outlet at Jewel, said the store put up notices to use TraceTogether-only SafeEntry as preparation for when the Government does announce the compulsory use of the function.

But he added that TraceTogether is not yet compulsory at the outlet, and customers who have trouble using SafeEntry or TraceTogether can still manually key in their NRIC number through a smartphone provided by the restaurant.

The SNDGO said more details of the roll-out of TraceTogether-only SafeEntry will be shared "at a later date", with more token distribution points at community centres to be reopened this month.

"We have also been working with businesses to implement (token scanning) to provide the additional alternative to the public for SafeEntry check-in," it added.

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