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S$10m spent on contact-tracing tools, with TraceTogether ‘saving many lives’: Lawrence Wong

SINGAPORE — The TraceTogether and SafeEntry contact-tracing tools have cost around S$10 million so far — and their results in stopping the spread of Covid-19 speak for themselves, Education Minister Lawrence Wong said in Parliament on Monday (Jan 4).

S$10m spent on contact-tracing tools, with TraceTogether ‘saving many lives’: Lawrence Wong

The TraceTogether contact-tracing tool has stopped the transmission of Covid-19 in many instances and has helped save many lives, said Education Minister Lawrence Wong.

  • The Government has spent about S$10 million on the TraceTogether and SafeEntry contact-tracing systems
  • Around 78 per cent of Singapore’s population, or 4.2 million people, are enrolled in TraceTogether
  • Education Minister Lawrence Wong said authorities had sought to reduce manufacturing time, costs of TraceTogether tokens
  • Token supply woes were unexpected owing to availability of TraceTogether app; distribution at community centres will resume soon

 

SINGAPORE — The TraceTogether and SafeEntry contact-tracing tools have cost around S$10 million so far — and their results in stopping the spread of Covid-19 speak for themselves, Education Minister Lawrence Wong said in Parliament on Monday (Jan 4).

“TraceTogether has stopped the transmission of the virus in many instances and has helped save many lives. So I have no doubt about the cost-effectiveness of this programme,” said Mr Wong in response to questions from Members of Parliament (MPs). 

Before these tools existed, the Government had an effective contact-tracing programme that worked well during an outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003. That, however, was manpower-intensive and too slow, said Mr Wong, who co-chairs a governmental task force leading Singapore’s response to Covid-19.

With the TraceTogether and SafeEntry systems, officials can now trace the contacts of a Covid-19 case in a matter of hours, instead of two days previously.

“Our ability to do all this is not just because of the TraceTogether programme. It's fundamentally because of the confidence and trust that Singaporeans have in our system, the way we handle the data and the way we go about doing contact-tracing,” said Mr Wong.

The TraceTogether mobile application and tokens exchange Bluetooth signals with other devices, while SafeEntry allows users to check in and out of public places. 

Right now, more than 4.2 million people, or about 78 per cent of Singapore’s population, are taking part in the TraceTogether programme. 

Even so, Mr Wong said that the Government would like to encourage a higher uptake of TraceTogether.

In developing the tool, Mr Wong said that the Government has been mindful of the need to ensure value for money. 

He noted that Workers’ Party’s Hougang MP Dennis Tan had asked if there could be a rechargeable version of the tokens, a move that Mr Wong said would have increased their cost and manufacturing time.

“Instead, we have designed the tokens using off-the-shelf components, where possible, to minimise manufacturing complexity, time and costs,” he said.

TraceTogether tokens have a battery life of six to nine months. 

He said that there was a supply hold-up when the tokens were launched because of manufacturing delays and high demand. The Government had not anticipated the strong demand, since the TraceTogether app was easily available at the time.

The authorities have not been able to complete the distribution of tokens at certain community centres owing to supply woes.

Responding to a question from Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan on the delays, Mr Wong said that the inventory of tokens has been increasing and distribution may resume soon at these centres.

Mr Wong said that he has not collected the token, since he is already using the TraceTogether app, and urged other Singaporeans to do likewise.

He added that after everyone who needs a token has had a chance to collect one, the authorities would roll out the requirement for TraceTogether-only check-ins at SafeEntry checkpoints. 

“We will give further information on this once the details and timelines are firmed up, and will provide adequate advance notice to all the affected establishments, so they can gear up and prepare.”

Related topics

TraceTogether SafeEntry Covid-19 coronavirus

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