Singapore won’t relax COVID-19 measures or vaccinate until tracking widely adopted

Minister and task force chairperson Lawrence Wong with the TraceTogether token. Image: Coconuts
Minister and task force chairperson Lawrence Wong with the TraceTogether token. Image: Coconuts

Singapore says everyone in the country must use its COVID-19 tracing app and device before containment measures will be further relaxed or a vaccine introduced.

The coronavirus task force said yesterday that at least 70% of the roughly 5 million residents must use its TraceTogether app or device, especially when entering popular venues like restaurants and shopping malls. After that level is reached, Singapore should be ready to enter its third phase of relaxed “circuit breaker” measures, which enable larger gatherings and access to vaccines.

Task force chairperson Lawrence Wong said Singapore aims to achieve that by the end of the year. 

“When we have both a higher take-up rate of TraceTogether and wider deployment of TraceTogether-only SafeEntry … and community transmission throughout this period remains low, then there is a good chance of us entering phase three… by the end of the year,” he told reporters yesterday

Singaporeans currently use the digital “SafeEntry” system to log their whereabouts on their phones. The TraceTogether app has not been popular since its March launch amid complaints about privacy and battery drain. 

Wong said everyone needs to do their part and cooperate.

“If we do that well and keep community transmission low, then we will be able to enter Phase Three before the end of the year,” he said.

<Roadmap to Phase Three>

We’re embarking on our journey to Phase Three. But to avoid a flare up of the virus, any…

Posted by Lawrence Wong on Tuesday, 20 October 2020

If Wong’s “TraceTogether” wish comes true, the size of gatherings would be increased from five to eight, and multiple groups of 50 would be allowed at museums, weddings, and places of worship. 

Singapore may also roll out vaccinations as soon as early next year, starting with those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, including healthcare professionals, according to Kenneth Mak, the Health Ministry’s director of medical services. 

“Many of the candidates will only complete phase-three studies at the end of this year… so it’d be more likely that we would be making more plans to vaccinate different parts of our population from next year onwards,” he said

Vaccine research and plans to obtain vaccines from different manufacturers are underway. The Health Ministry also said that it will study vaccine prices, quantities, eligibility, and adverse side effects.

Cinemas were the first venues to start making TraceTogether check-ins mandatory instead of scanning identification cards or using the SafeEntry digital check-in system. 

As of yesterday, Singapore had recorded 57,921 infected cases and 28 deaths since the outbreak began in January. The country has maintained single-digit cases since last week, mainly involving people coming from abroad.

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