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Singapore’s Businesses Gearing Up for TraceTogether

Cinemagoers downloading the TraceTogether app on their mobile phones to check in before entering Shaw Theatres at JCube mall on 31 October 2020. The app enables quick tracking of people who have been exposed to confirmed Covid-19 cases. (Singapore Press via AP Images)

Businesses and industry associations in Singapore are set for their customers to check-in using only TraceTogether (TT) when it becomes compulsory for contact tracing starting May 17, as per news reports.

For example, a beauty salon has already installed a SafeEntry Gateway Box, a new device that allows visitors to do a SafeEntry check-in at the entrance by tapping the TraceTogether token or a phone app against the box. This is ahead of the June 15 deadline for more public venues to have the gateway system in place as another way for visitors to check in besides scanning QR codes with the TraceTogether app or scanning the token.

The Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) noted that about 80% of the 80 firms it has received feedback from said they were ready for TraceTogether-only SafeEntry check-ins. The rest are either getting prepared or are not ready yet, said the association, which represents about 8,000 small- and medium-sized businesses. Most of their firms are already using the SafeEntry QR code for checking in, such as using the Singpass app or a phone’s camera to scan the codes. However, they added that some firms have faced technical or administrative issues, such as having problems updating the QR code for business premises after moving.

Meanwhile, the Hair and Cosmetology Association Singapore, which has about 300 members, said some had issues applying for the gateway but these have since been addressed. The Singapore Hotel Association, too, which has 160 hotels, said no members had reported any technical hitches that could not be resolved.

On the other hand, the Restaurant Association of Singapore has contacted its more than 500 members to advise them on how they can get help to train staff on using the free SafeEntry (Business) app, which can stand in for the SafeEntry Gateway box, as well as applying for and setting up the box itself.

To put things into perspective, as reported by OpenGov Asia, the implementation of TraceTogether-only SafeEntry (TT-only SE) aims to achieve greater coverage and active participation in the TT Programme, especially for venues or settings where community spread is most likely to occur. These venues are those that experience higher throughput of visitors such as malls, workplaces, places of worship, schools and educational institutions, as well as places where people are likely to be nearby for prolonged periods like dine-in food and beverage outlets and gyms.

It will strengthen digital contact tracing and help the government better manage the recent rise in community causes, some of which are currently unlinked and have resulted in the formation of community clusters. With more effective digital contact tracing, the speed of isolating close contacts will be improved.

With the nationwide implementation of TT-only SE on 17 May 2021, SE check-in must be performed using a TT App or Token by using the TT App to scan the venue’s QR code; displaying a TT Token so that a venue staff can scan the TT Token’s QR code or tapping the TT App or TT Token at a SafeEntry Gateway device.

Other modes of SE check-in such as launching your phone’s camera to scan a venue’s QR code and using the Singpass App will be discontinued from 17 May 2021. To help ease the transition, scanning of barcodes on personal IDs will be retained until 31 May 2021.

The TT Programme and SE are important digital tools that enable contact tracers to quickly identify and isolate close contacts of COVID-19 cases. This also helps to break transmission chains and prevent community outbreaks. While TT data identifies an initial list of close contacts, SE data provides the list of places visited by COVID-19 cases to help Singapore’s contact tracers establish cluster links. The combined use of these digital tools has enabled us to reduce the average time taken to contact trace from 4 days to less than 1.5 days.

With the recent community cases, active participation in the TT Programme is crucial for effective contact tracing. Singapore government urges co-operation to use either the TT App or Token and to remain on guard in the fight against COVID-19.

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