Singapore will start easing some restrictions put in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus over the next few weeks as the nation moves towards reopening its economy.
“We are preparing for the safe and gradual resumption of economic and community activities after the end of the circuit breaker period on 1 June 2020,” the ministry of health said in a statement.
Some work premises will be allowed to gradually reopen. Selected activities such as home-based businesses, laundry services and barbers will be allowed to operate from May 12. Some students will be allowed to go back to schools in small groups from May 19.
In allowing more movement in the city, the government have put in place further systems and initiatives to assist with tracking the spread of the virus and tracing those who may have been in close contact with those who have been infected.
From 12 May onwards, businesses are required to use SafeEntry to collect entry and exit information of workers and visitors on their premises for as long as it is required by law during the period of COVID-19.
Digital Check-In System to Help Contact Tracing Efforts
SafeEntry is a digital check-in system to log details of visitors and employees, and will be deployed extensively across the country to help with contact tracing.
The system is designed to enhance Singapore’s coronavirus contact-tracing capabilities and requires visitors to either scan a QR code, or scan their national ID, or allow their phones to be scanned to record a barcode in the national e-services app. That scans are taken when visitors enter and exit a premises.
Singapore’s Ministry of Health says the service logs names, national identity numbers or the equivalent for long-term residents and mobile phone numbers, plus the time a user entered and exited a venue.
The resulting data is uploaded to a cloud service where, the Ministry says, it will only be used by authorised personnel for contact tracing purposes, and stringent measures are in place to safeguard the data in accordance with the Government’s data security standards.
In an address by the Health Minister he said that the records will reduce the time needed to identify potential close contacts of COVID-19 patients. “As Singapore moves towards relaxing the circuit breaker measures, it is even more critical that contact tracing be done well to mitigate the risk of new waves of infection. This is important so that we can continue advancing towards fewer restrictions on our movements, and our daily lives.”
SafeEntry will be compulsory in all businesses and for those entering public venues such as shopping malls, train stations and parks. These locations will be encouraged to display barcodes so that visitors can check in and out.
Leveraging Technology To Contact Trace Quickly and Effectively
The Minister for Health, Mr Gan Kim Yong said in a Parliament update on 4th May, “After we have confirmed a COVID-19 case, we will need to contact trace and isolate high-risk close contacts, to limit the spread in the community. This needs to be done fast, has to be scalable and thorough to be effective. This will allow us to quickly ringfence and prevent further spread. We have set up 50 contact tracing teams, up from 20 since my last update in March. But we must scale up quickly if there are more cases or large clusters, and to discover less obvious links. To do so manually will be very difficult.”
“Many countries have leveraged on technology to help them contact trace effectively and efficiently. We will also explore how we can tap on SafeEntry and TraceTogether as well as other technological solutions, said the Health Minister, Mr Gan Kim Yong.