TraceTogether app security concerns slow app adoption

TraceTogether app security concerns slow app adoption

The adoption of the TraceTogether app and tokens stand at more than 60 percent, getting closer to the 70 percent target required to move to Phase 3.

The Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG) said that the figure is “in the low 60 percent”, but did not give a specific number.

This figure was reflected in a YouGov survey conducted last week, which found that 23 percent of people still have not downloaded the TraceTogether app and 11 percent said they downloaded it but then deleted it. 

The survey of more than 1,000 Singaporeans found that awareness of the TraceTogether app has increased. Ninety-eight percent of respondents said they were aware of the app, compared to a similar survey done in April which found that 84 percent knew of the app.

And while privacy concerns about the TraceTogether app have diminished, worries about the app causing battery drain on mobile phones remain a reason for some people not to install it. 

Among those who have not downloaded the app, the top two reasons were that they did not want to turn on Bluetooth all the time, or the app takes up too much battery power. The third most popular reason was that they do not want to download more apps.

Privacy concerns about the TraceTogether App

One of the main reasons for not downloading the TraceTogether app initially – that users were worried that the app would collect their personal information – fell in importance. In last week’s survey, 28 percent cited it as a concern, compared to 45 percent in April. Those aged 25 to 34 were the most concerned about this.

Associate Professor Lawrence Loh from the National University of Singapore’s Business School said that it appears many users are now aware that their data are stored in the device and will not be shared unless there is an infection.
“I think there was some misunderstanding by many potential users at the onset on the collection and use of the data,” said Assoc Prof Loh, the director of the Centre for Governance, Institutions & Organizations.

SNDGG said that both the TraceTogether app and token are “privacy-preserving by design”. 

“No GPS location is collected, and the devices only exchange encrypted and anonymized Bluetooth signals with other TraceTogether devices nearby,” said a spokesperson.

“The Bluetooth data is also automatically deleted after 25 days, and the data is only requested by the authorities when a user is confirmed to be a COVID-19 positive case.”

Source: Channel News Asia

an asian chinese female enjoying her dessert chocolate cake during her tea break in cafeteria while practicing social distancing

Phase 3 in Singapore could last over a year

Minister of Health said that Singaporeans must be prepared because phase 3 could last more than what it’s expected.

People must be prepared for a Phase 3 that could last for a “prolonged period” of a year or more, said Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong on Wednesday.

This is even as the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 has laid out a roadmap that could see the country enter the third phase of its reopening by the end of this year.

Mr. Gan, who co-chairs the task force, said in Parliament that Phase 3 would not be a return to the pre-pandemic status quo. It will instead be a “new normal” that will last until either the rest of the world gets the virus under control, or effective treatment or vaccine is developed.

“In this context, we need to put in place the measures and equip ourselves with the tools which will enable us to stay safe, as we allow greater flexibility to live, work and even celebrate major life events during Phase 3,” he said.

The minister was responding to a question from Tampines GRC Member of Parliament Cheng Li Hui, who had asked about the criteria considered when considering the maximum number of people allowed for events such as weddings.

Such factors include the frequency of such activities, the potential risk of specific types of events as well as whether additional safety measures can be effectively put in place to mitigate these risks, said Mr. Gan.  

When did Singapore enter Phase 3?

Singapore slowly entered phase 3 at the beginning of October, when some restaurants and public places were authorized to open their doors to the public.

 “There is a lot of effort given to detail about the kind of measures put in place between the phases, but more importantly, it is also about the wider strategies to achieve the best outcomes.”, said Associate Professor Josip Car at the moment.

Teenager in a mall or airport

Germany to start a green lane with Singapore

Singapore and Germany agree to set up a green lane for essential business and official travel

Residents in Singapore and Germany may soon be able to travel between the two countries for essential business and official purposes after both sides agreed to establish a reciprocal green lane. 

This was announced in a joint press statement on Friday by the foreign affairs ministries of Singapore and Germany.

“The reciprocal green lane will enable essential travel for business or official purposes, via direct flights between Germany and Singapore,” said the statement. 

Eligible applicants will have to abide by the COVID-19 prevention and public health measures mutually agreed by both countries, it added. 

Germany and Singapore authorities also said that the green lane could serve as a model for future similar arrangements between Singapore and other European countries.

Operational details of the green lane, including the procedural requirements, health protocols, and application process, will be announced at a later date. 

Green lanes prior to Germany

Green lanes and air travel bubbles with countries whose COVID-19 infection rates are low have been in the plans of reviving the Singaporean economy.

Germany joins Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand, and Brunei as the countries that Singapore has unilaterally opened its borders to, as the country bids to revive its tourism and travel markets.

This has allowed essential business and official travel between the countries. It also has helped restore connectivity and support economic recovery. All the necessary public health safeguards have been taken.

Eligible travelers will have to abide by the mutually agreed terms and prevailing public health measures in the countries.

These short-term visitors must comply with the conditions of the pass. These include undergoing a Covid-19 test upon arrival at the airport instead of serving a stay-home notice, as well as downloading the TraceTogether mobile application for their entire period of stay.

Source: Today Online.

Sydney, Australia - October 8, 2013: Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 (registration 9V-SKB) departing Sydney airport.

SIA will restart flights to New York

Singapore Airlines (SIA) said it will resume its flights to New York amid early signs of optimism of a recovery in air travel.

The uninterrupted three-times a week flights between Changi Airport and New York’s John F Kennedy (JFK) airport will start on Nov 9, the airline said in a news release

“Operating to JFK International Airport would allow Singapore Airlines to better accommodate a mix of passenger and cargo traffic on its services to New York in the current operating climate,” SIA said.

The flights will also cater to the growing number of transfer passengers who can now transit via Changi Airport, it added.

SIA said it anticipates significant cargo demand from a range of industries based in the New York metro area, including pharmaceuticals, e-commerce, and technology firms. 

“The new service will provide the only non-stop air cargo link from the US Northeast to Singapore, which serves as a regional distribution hub for many major US-based companies,” it said.

SIA currently operates nonstop services to Los Angeles. The airline said it will continue to review its operations to the United States, and “assess the growing demand for air travel amid the ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic”, before deciding to reinstate services to other points in the US.

Signs of optimism for the SIA

The Singapore-New York flights are an important step in rebuilding SIA’s global network, said Mr. Lee Lik Hsin, the airline’s executive vice-president for commercial.

“Nonstop ultra-long services are the bedrock of our services to the key US market. We will continue to ramp up existing services and reinstate other points as the demand for both passenger and cargo services return,” he said.

The flight from Singapore to New York, operated under SQ24, will take 18 hours and five minutes. The flights out of New York will start on Nov 11 and will also fly three times a week. Operated under SQ23, this flight will take 18 hours and 40 minutes.

Source: Channel Asia.

Asian businessman wearing suit and face mask sitting on bench with his suitcase luggage in airport terminal. Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak prevention. Health awareness for pandemic protection

Hong Kong travelers need to serve a stay-home notice in Singapore

From next Thursday, travelers from Hong Kong coming to Singapore need only to serve a seven-day stay-home notice in their place of residence instead of two weeks at a dedicated facility, said the Ministry of Health.

This means Hong Kong joins a list of low-risk countries and regions such as mainland China, Macau, Taiwan, and most parts of Malaysia, where travelers from these places are mandated to serve a seven-day stay-home notice period at their residences in Singapore after their arrival.

The authorities also said that, from Oct 15 onwards, people with recent travel history to Sabah, Malaysia will be required to serve a two-week stay-home notice at a dedicated facility here due to the recent increase in cases there.

This will also apply to return Singapore-based travelers under the reciprocal green lane agreements with Malaysia as well as Malaysian citizens and permanent residents entering Singapore under the Periodic Commuting Arrangement.

However, this new two-week stay-home notice rule will not apply to Malaysia-based travelers under the green lanes. They will continue to be subject to existing green-lane health measures, such as a pre-departure test, on-arrival test, and keeping to a pre-declared controlled itinerary.

MOH said: “For now, travelers from all other parts of Malaysia, except Sabah, will continue to serve a seven-day stay-home notice at their place of residence.

Different measures besides the stay-home notice

At the moment, travelers from Australia (excluding Victoria State), Brunei, New Zealand, and Vietnam need to undergo a Covid-19 test upon arrival instead of serving a stay-home notice. Singapore has updated a travel advisory to allow general travel to these countries.

 “Singapore’s border measures will evolve as the global situation changes. We will continue to monitor the global health situation closely and update our border measures in accordance with the public health risk assessment,” MOH said.

Source: Today Online

changi airport, singapure, measures

Changi Airport between green lanes and air travel bubbles

Green lanes and air travel bubbles with countries whose COVID-19 infection rates are low were among the plans outlined by Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung on Tuesday to “revive” Changi Airport.

Taking “proactive steps” to revive Changi Airport is a “top national priority”, said Minister Ong.

However, he pointed out that there was a need to “manage expectations”.

“I need to manage expectations here. For members who are hoping that I’m about to announce some air travel resumption and even possible December holiday destinations, I am sorry I will disappoint you,” he said.

“The key is to make sure we stay safe and manage the risks. We have gone through quite a bit, including a painful circuit breaker, to arrive at the stable situation we have today. And we must not give that up.”

Changi Airport has already set up a facility to swab up to 10,000 passengers a day. In the next few months, there are plans to set up a dedicated COVID-19 testing laboratory at the airport to support aviation recovery, said Minister Ong

More green lanes to revive Changi Airport

Singapore will continue to pursue reciprocal green lane arrangements with partner countries or regions, said Minister Ong.

These are restricted to a small group of essential business and official travelers, who will be subjected to pre-departure and on-arrival COVID-19 tests to ensure that they do not carry the virus.

These travelers will also have “controlled itineraries” to minimize any residual risk of community spread, the minister said.

Currently, Singapore has such arrangements with Brunei, China, Japan, Malaysia, and South Korea.

Singapore will also continue to facilitate passenger transfers at Changi Airport, said Minister Ong.

“As an air hub, about a quarter of our passenger volume at Changi are transferred, meaning the passengers do not clear immigration and are using Changi Airport as an interchange to get to their final destinations,” he explained.

TraceTogether app will be upgraded for tourists

TraceTogether Tokens distribution will expand

The distribution of TraceTogether tokens will be progressively expanded to about 100 locations island-wide such as in malls and community centers.

More than 100,000 tokens have been collected since distribution kicked off on Sept 14 at 20 community centers and clubs in the Jalan Besar and Tanjong Pagar regions, the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group said on Sunday.

Collection points were rolled out at a further 18 community centers on Friday, while TraceTogether mobile booths will be deployed at various malls over the coming weeks.

The locally developed TraceTogether program helps with contact tracing efforts by identifying nearby tokens or phones with the app installed, enabling the authorities to identify a person’s close contacts if needed.

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary reiterated on Sunday the Government’s target of getting at least 70 percent of the population onto TraceTogether, without specifying how many tokens the Government is aiming to distribute.

The TraceTogether tokens program since its start

The TraceTogether app has been downloaded about 2.4 million times to date, which would represent around 40 percent of Singapore’s population, adding that the Government is making the use of the app or token compulsory for large gatherings and higher-risk activities as Singapore opens up.

Minister Janil said: “Many of the seniors I met today in the queue actually had looked upon the TokenGoWhere website… but we hope that the booths will also reach out to people who would not naturally look it up online”.

“And that’s the key issue. It’s to make sure we have access to as many segments of our Singapore population as possible.”

The app already allows users to scan SafeEntry QR codes, while the token comes with its own QR code that can be scanned for entry, similar to how the process works with the bar code on identity cards.

Source: Strait Times

singapore, phase three

Singapore slowly entering phase three

Singaporeans can expect to move into phase three reopening in a calibrated and cautious manner, in the same way, restrictions are being eased in the different stages of the current phase two.

But they see the blurred boundaries between phase two and phase three as a good approach.

Associate Professor Josip Car, director of the Center for Population Health Sciences at Nanyang Technological University’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, said this lack of a clear-cut difference shows effective policymaking in action, as changes are more likely to be accepted when introduced incrementally and gradually, helping to ensure that the public understands the measures and remains calm.

“There is a lot of effort given to detail about the kind of measures put in place between the phases, but more importantly, it is also about the wider strategies to achieve the best outcomes.”

Phase two reopening of the Singapore economy came into force on June 19, which, among other things, allows most businesses and social activities to resume, with safeguards in place.

What to expect of phase three?

With further easing of restrictions in the past few weeks, such as doubling the number of people at weddings and the lifting of border restrictions to visitors from Australia – excluding Victoria state – and Vietnam, many have wondered if Singapore has unofficially entered phase three.

Professor Alex Cook, vice-dean of research at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, however, cautioned that it would be “silly” to give each of these incremental changes a name, asserting that Singaporeans cannot expect to be back to normal entirely until mass vaccination begins.

Tempering public expectations, Professor Teo Yik Ying, Dean of the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said that one should not anticipate a significant relaxing of measures in phase three, and expect the entire suite of activities that were previously barred to return. Rather, phase three is a state in which Singapore will remain with a certain degree of precautions to allow economic and social activities to carry on.

Source: The Star

Saudi arabia, Flight restrictions

Saudi Arabia will partially lift some flight restrictions

Saudi Arabia will partially lift its suspension of international flights as of Sep 15 to allow “exceptional categories” of citizens and residents to travel, the state news agency SPA stated on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia will scrap all travel restrictions on air, land and sea transport for citizens on Jan 1, 2021, it said.

In March, the kingdom suspended international flights to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Exceptional categories include public and military sector employees, diplomats and their families, those working for public or non-profit private sector jobs abroad, businessmen, patients who need treatment abroad, those studying abroad as well as people with humanitarian cases, and sports teams.

GCC citizens and non-Saudi residents with valid residency, or visitors’ visas will be allowed to enter the kingdom as of Sep 15 conditional on proving they are COVID-19 negative.

Saudi Arabia introduced stringent measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus in March, including 24-hour curfews on most towns and cities.

Other countries, besides Saudi Arabia, planning to lift flight suspension

On Friday, a Malaysian newspaper reported that the country is looking at the possibility of fully reopening its international borders with Singapore in January next year.

The daily quoted the Malaysia’s health minister Adham Baba as saying that the recovery movement control order (MCO) in place over the next four months “would be an important time for the country as it would determine if it was possible to reopen the border with Singapore fully”.

The Star’s report quoted Dr Adham as saying that during the Malaysia’s MCO period, a more systematic approach would be taken in areas such as border control, physical distancing and the use of personal protective equipment.

“We cannot use a trial-and-error approach,” Dr Adham said, adding that it was important to consider the livelihoods of the people who had been affected by Covid-19.

As Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, much are the countries thinking in reopening borders and lift flight suspensions, looking for the recovery of their economy after the crisis by Covid-19.

TraceTogether app will be upgraded for tourists

TraceTogether Tokens to be distribute by the MOH

TraceTogether tokens will be distributed in the citystate from Sept 14 onwards the Ministry of Health said in a statement on Wednesday September 9. 

The distribution of these tokens, which will star with Jalan Besar and Tanjong Pagar, due to the higher concentration of senior citizens in these estates, is expected to be completed by November.

These tokens exchange Bluetooth signals with other tokens nearby or with mobile phones that are running the TraceTogether mobile application.

A new self-check service will be introduced today. The service will alert people if they have visited the same venues at the same time as Covid-19 cases, based on their SafeEntry records, said MOH.

About the TraceTogether Tokens

To learn when and where they can get their TraceTogether tokens, which will be distributed free to everyone, Residents can go to the website.

“We encourage every resident in Singapore to either download the TraceTogether app onto their mobile phone, or to collect a TraceTogether token. A higher adoption rate makes the TraceTogether programme and contact tracing efforts more efficient and effective,” MOH said.

Other announcements

The Government also announced that it will be piloting SafeEntry check-ins through the TraceTogether tokens or the app at selected venues, to facilitate the easing of Covid-19 safety measures at these places.

The authorities will increase the number of venues where SafeEntry check-ins are done through the TraceTogether tokens or app, Once the national distribution of the tokens is underway.

Currently, individuals check in to venues via SafeEntry by using their mobile phone to scan a QR code or getting their identification cards scanned. Supplementing SafeEntry with proximity data from TraceTogether will enhance safety for participants, MOH said.

“This will ensure better confidence in mitigating the risk of formation of large clusters, and could allow for a safer increase in capacity limits at these events and premises with any potential future easing of measures.”

Checking in with SafeEntry via TraceTogether was first tested at a business conference event held here at the end of August, MOH said. 

During a virtual press conference on Wednesday held by the Ministry of Health, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, who is the Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative, said that Singapore is now in a phase of opening up for conferences and other business events.

“For these kinds of events with more people interacting, it’s not enough to know who’s been in this building in the last hour. You want to know of that group of people who happen to be in that building (and had been) in close proximity to each other. In order to have that level of granularity, you do need proximity data,” he said.