From May 17, all visitors to places that need SafeEntry – such as malls, eateries, offices, schools and places of worship – must use either the TraceTogether app or token to check in for contact tracing.

The date for this compulsory TraceTogether-only SafeEntry check-in was brought forward by about two weeks from the previously announced June 1, the Government said on Tuesday (May 4).

Here are some answers to questions about TraceTogether.

herworldwithyou

Q: Why is a TraceTogether check-in needed when there is already SafeEntry?

A: SafeEntry, the national check-in tool, records the date, time and location of a venue that people visit. But it cannot tell whom they were in close contact with.

TraceTogether, using the mobile app or token, is able to do this by exchanging encrypted Bluetooth signals between users.

This proximity information, together with SafeEntry location data, can help the authorities to quickly identify and isolate people who may have been in close contact with a Covid-19 patient, to limit the spread of the virus in the community.

The Government has said that TraceTogether and SafeEntry have helped cut the average contact tracing time from four days to less than 1½ days.

tracetogether app
Credit: ST PHOTO / KUA CHEE SIONG

Q: Why bring forward check in using only TraceTogether from June 1 to May 17?

A: The decision comes with the additional measures announced by the Government on Tuesday to help reduce further spread of Covid-19 following a rise in community cases, including those infected by more transmissible variants of the virus.

The Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) said the date was brought forward “to achieve greater coverage and active participation in the TraceTogether programme, especially for venues or settings where community spread is most likely to occur”.

“This will strengthen digital contact tracing and help us better manage the recent rise in community cases, 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 raised,” they added.

Q: How do I check in using only TraceTogether?

A: This can be done in three ways at venue entrances.

1. Use the TraceTogether app to scan a venue’s SafeEntry QR code.

2. Let a venue’s staff scan your TraceTogether token’s QR code.

3. Just like using an ez-link card, tap your TraceTogether token or phone with the TraceTogether app on a new device called the SafeEntry Gateway.

tracetogether token
Visitors can tap their TraceTogether tokens or phones with the TraceTogether app on a new device called the SafeEntry Gateway.
Credit: ST PHOTO / KUA CHEE SIONG

The gateway takes the form of a physical box, or an updated version of the SafeEntry (Business) app on a venue staff member’s mobile device. More venues will offer gateway check-ins from June 15 after an initial batch of over 2,700 places had to do so from April 19.

Visit this website for the full list of places.

Visitors who do not use TraceTogether to check in will be denied entry to venues that require it.

safe entry gateway box

Q: Where can I get the TraceTogether app or token?

A: The free contact tracing app, developed by the Government, can be downloaded from the Google Play store or the Apple App Store.

The token can be collected from any community centre islandwide.

Token users can check if their token is working by looking out for a green light that blinks about once a minute. If the token is blinking red, or if there is no light at all, the user can replace the token at any CC or at token replacement booths in selected malls.

More details can be found at this website.

tracetogether token
Credit: ST PHOTO / KUA CHEE SIONG

Q: When TraceTogether-only SafeEntry is compulsory, can I still use other methods to check in?

A: From May 17, SafeEntry check-ins using the Singpass app or using a phone’s camera to scan venue QR codes will no longer be supported.

And from June 1, visitors will no longer be able to have their personal identity cards’ bar codes scanned at venue entrances to check in.

But under certain circumstances, some people may be allowed to use their ID cards to check in, at the discretion of venue operators. These instances include:

– Short-term visitors to Singapore who are unable to register or use the TraceTogether app.

– TraceTogether app users whose phones have run out of battery power.

– Users with the app or token which fails to work and causes significant inconvenience to other visitors waiting to check in.

Q: Will mandatory TraceTogether check-ins apply to babies or young children?

A: Children below the age of seven do not need to check in. Everyone aged seven and above has to check in using the app or token.

Q: Is checking out mandatory for TraceTogether-only SafeEntry?

A: Like with SafeEntry, checking out is encouraged but not mandatory.

For people who checked in using the SafeEntry Gateway, there is no need to check out, and there is no history of your check-in using the gateway in the TraceTogether app.

Q: Will group check-ins be allowed in the app when compulsory TraceTogether check-in is implemented?

A: Group check-ins will still be supported by the TraceTogether app through scanning a SafeEntry QR code or using the app’s “favourites” feature.

Group check-in is not available with the SafeEntry Gateway.

When doing a group check-in, everyone aged seven and above in the group must display his TraceTogether app or token to venue staff.

Q: Can I still check in with the app using the “favourites” feature when TraceTogether check in becomes compulsory?

A: Yes, this will still be supported.

Q: At which locations must I do a TraceTogether check in?

A: Currently, TraceTogether check-ins are required at some venues, namely cinemas, selected places of worship with more than 100 people, places with live performances, business events, cruises and selected nightlife entertainment venues allowed to reopen under pilots.

But from May 17, more venues must have only TraceTogether check-in. These include workplaces, schools and pre-schools, healthcare facilities, food and beverage outlets with dine-in options, shopping malls, standalone supermarkets, and standalone large retail shops bigger than 10,000 sq ft.

For the full list of venues, visit this website.

Check ins for visitors are not required at the following places:

– convenience stores;

– food and beverage outlets with no dine in options;

– heartland provision shops;

– retail shops smaller than 10,000 sq ft; and

– large retail shops and supermarkets already inside malls or buildings that use TraceTogether check-ins, and operate during the malls’ or buildings’ operating hours.

Q: What features are in the TraceTogether app?

A: Features have been added in the past year to the app since it launched, including allowing users to do group check-in and add a list of their favourite places to easily check in. At the end of March, a new feature informing users about their vaccination status was added. Another new feature about their Covid-19 test results is coming soon.

Q: Does the TraceTogether app drain my phone’s battery?

A: Previously, many users reported that the app was draining their iPhones’ battery. But an update in July last year reportedly fixed the issue.

The update allowed the app to run in the background on iPhones to exchange Bluetooth signals with nearby devices for contact tracing, instead of running in the foreground.

When running in the foreground, the app drained the phone’s battery and users could not use their handsets for anything else.

Android devices did not face the same issue.

Q: How does TraceTogether protect my privacy?

A: The TraceTogether app and tokens exchange Bluetooth signals in an encrypted and randomised form with nearby users.

No global positioning system location data is collected.

The Bluetooth data exchanged is stored in the app or token. Data older than 25 days is erased automatically.

Only when a user tests positive for Covid-19 will MOH request that he upload the Bluetooth data to the Government’s servers for tracing close contacts.

The data can be decrypted only by MOH and only authorised public officers will have access to the data. When unencrypted, the data is linked to a person’s phone number and other identification details.

After the pandemic is over, the Government will stop using TraceTogether and SafeEntry, SNDGO has said.

Public agencies must then stop collecting data under the programmes and delete the personal contact tracing data collected as soon as reasonably possible.

Meanwhile, users can also request for their identification data to be deleted from the Government’s server, unless they are confirmed Covid-19 cases and their proximity data has already been uploaded to the Government’s server.

TraceTogether app users can make the deletion request by e-mailing this address with the mobile number registered in the app and the last four characters of the user’s NRIC, FIN or passport number.

Token users can return the physical token to the Government by first e-mailing this address with the last four characters of the NRIC, FIN or passport number. The Government will then let them know how to return the token.

The Government said last year that TraceTogether data would be used for contact tracing only, but it later clarified that the data can and has been used for criminal investigations.

To address concerns, a law was passed in Parliament in February to restrict the use of personal contact tracing data in criminal investigations to only serious crimes, such as murder and terrorism.

This article was first published on straitstimes.com.