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Singapore’s MOH to Reintroduce TraceTogether – Only SafeEntry and SafeEntry Gateways to Supermarkets

Image credits: www.todayonline.com

TraceTogether-only SafeEntry and SafeEntry Gateway check-in requirements will be reintroduced at supermarkets located within TraceTogether-only SafeEntry buildings with the same operating hours, said the Ministry of Health (MOH). This will take effect from July 21 onwards.

The ministry had observed that there is a high volume of patrons in supermarkets, which increases the risk of transmission. The ministry added that this would facilitate more targeted contact tracing for people who have overlapping visits with infected people in indoor buildings.

Supermarkets that are already implementing TraceTogether-only SafeEntry and SafeEntry Gateway check-in facilities will continue to do so. The MOH encourages all members of the public to comply with SafeEntry check-in requirements and carry their TraceTogether token or keep their TT App active to facilitate contact tracing, and help protect themselves and their loved ones, the ministry said.

MOH had previously said that TraceTogether-only SafeEntry would not be required for large retail stores and supermarkets located inside a mall. The ministry said then that interactions at such venues were generally more transient, in addition to the fact that all visitors would have already checked in at the mall entrances.

Notably, businesses and industry associations in Singapore are set for their customers to check in using only TraceTogether (TT) since it became compulsory for contact tracing. 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 to have 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.

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.

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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