Latest News: 3 February 2021

1. Check-in only once at public locations when TraceTogether-only SafeEntry is implemented

Single check-in entry to your favourite mall may be closer than you think, once the mandatory use of TraceTogether-only SafeEntry kicks in.Ā Ā 

At present, check-ins via TraceTogether and SafeEntry are required for public locations that have a heightened risk of transmission for the COVID-19 virus. These include shopping centres, dining outlets and offices, which have higher numbers of visitors.

In a written reply to Mr Leon Pereira in Parliament, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean noted that the enhanced coverage offered by compulsory TraceTogether entry would allow for the removal of selected SafeEntry check-ins to ā€œminimise public inconvenienceā€.

These include the removal of check-ins to larger retail stores and supermarkets inside malls, following check-in to the malls via TraceTogether-only SafeEntry.

However, TraceTogether-only SafeEntry will still be necessary for establishments that hold an increased possibility of transmission.

These include fitness establishments and eateries, where people have a higher chance of being in closer proximity to one another, and have permissible reasons to take off their masks.

While over 80 per cent of the population have collected their TraceTogether tokens or downloaded the app, TraceTogether-only SafeEntry is not mandatory at this point, except for enterprises and events that fall under ongoing pilot programs.

Upon the implementation of TraceTogether-only SafeEntry, check-ins via the scanning of SafeEntry QR code on phones, the SingPass app, and barcodes on NRICs will not be accepted.

Mr Teo noted that the authorities are working on ā€œpotential solutions that would make it more convenient for public-facing businessesā€, and that the Government would aid businesses to facilitate a smoother transition to the use of TraceTogether-only SafeEntry.Ā 

2. Bill restricting police use of TraceTogether data to seven types of serious crimes passed after parliamentary debate

A Bill that restricts the use of personal contact tracing data in criminal investigations to only seven types of serious crimes was passed in Parliament on Tuesday, 2 February.Ā 

This comes after public concerns of data privacy after it was revealed that the police could access TraceTogether data for criminal investigations despite initial promises by the government that it was only to be used for contact tracing purposes.Ā 

The new safeguards will apply to TraceTogether, SafeEntry, and BluePass data. They include the deletion of TraceTogether and SafeEntry data from government servers once the pandemic is over, encrypting any extracted data used for investigations by the police, and restricting its use to only seven categories of serious crimes.

Additionally, no other written law can override the protections offered by the Bill. There are also safeguards in place on the policeā€™s access to the data, such as requiring officers who are inspectors or higher to request for it.Ā 

The COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Amendment) Bill was first tabled in Parliament on Monday by Dr Vivian Balakrishnan on behalf of Law Minister K. Shanmugam on a Certificate of Urgency, which will allow the proposed law to be put through all three readings in one parliamentary sitting instead of separate sessions.Ā 

During the debate on the Bill on Tuesday, 2 February, Dr Balakrishnan had highlighted that the introduction of the Bill was intended to remove doubt among Singaporeans and assure them that the data will be properly safeguarded and appropriately used.Ā 

The debate also saw eighteen other Members of Parliament (MPs) voicing out various issues surrounding the proposed Bill, including concerns about breached trust between the government and the public, and whether this Bill would set a precedent in restricting the authorities from having access to information for future investigations, among others.Ā 

Specifically, Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai from the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) expressed his partyā€™s opposition to the Bill, urging the government to keep to its original promise of only using contract tracing data for public health concerns and not to erode public trust.Ā 

On the contrary, Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh supported the proposed law, encouraging Singaporeans to download the TraceTogether app or use the token for the sake of public safety.Ā 

Addressing the concerns, Dr Balakrishnan has said that this new legislation does not set a precedent as it is sui generis – or unique – and applies only to serious crime. He further adds, ā€œIt is not in the public interest to deny the police access to data necessary to ensure public safety, and the proper conduct of justice.ā€

Dr Balakrishnan also addressed the Governmentā€™s error in not stating from the get-go that TraceTogether data is not exempt from the Criminal Procedure Code, saying that he takes full responsibility for the mistake and ā€œ[regrets] the consternation and anxiety causedā€.Ā 

Since it was made known that the TraceTogether data can be accessed by the police for criminal investigations a month ago, 350 people have requested for their contact tracing data to be erased from the Governmentā€™s server. However, in the same period, there have been over 390,000 new sign-ups.Ā 

Finally, Dr Balakrishnan emphasised the importance of TraceTogether in allowing authorities to quickly identify and isolate close contacts and ring fence potential clusters. He also said that it would be ā€œunconscionableā€ to inhibit the police from acting on serious offences that can affect a personā€™s life of safety.Ā 

3. SilkAir merges with Singapore Airlines, officially ceases operations

On 28 January, SilkAir officially announced its merger with Singapore Airlines, ending its 30-year journey as a regional wing of Singapore Airlines. While plans for the merger have been in discussion since 2018, the move is scheduled to be completed by the end of the 2021/22 financial year.

With this move, all Star Alliance members will now be able to enjoy priority treatment and services, including lounge access, which were only accessible to Krisflyer Gold, PPS, and Solitaire members prior to the merger.

Benefits include the option of KrisWorld in-flight entertainment, bringing greater variety in leisure choices for customers.

Passengers will also be able to enjoy Singapore Airlinesā€™ world-class services from the comfort of SilkAirā€™s 9 Boeing 737-800 aircraft, which will feature freshly upholstered seats and painted livery.

Additionally, the merger will see the upgrading of in-flight menus to offer improved options for food & beverages. Passengers onboard flights exceeding 3.5 hours can enjoy the option of fruits and cheese as part of their meals, while Singapore Airlinesā€™ famed satay canape will be available during lunch and dinner services for flights that are more than five hours long.

Wine pairings will be available for travellersā€™ meals, with the choice of red and white wines and champagne, curated from Singapore Airlinesā€™ award-winning collection.

SilkAirā€™s routes will be gradually transferred over the course of the merger, with Goh Choon Phong, Chief Executive Officer of Singapore Airlines, adding that ā€œIntegrating SilkAir with SIA also allows us to be nimble and flexible in aircraft deployment, and supports our fleet and network growth strategy.ā€

4. FIFA joins WHO to call for ā€˜fair access to vaccines, treatments, and diagnosticsā€™

FIFA, the worldā€™s soccer governing body, has announced that it will be joining with the World Health Organization (WHO) in their campaign to provide ā€œfair access to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics.ā€Ā 

The awareness campaign was launched at a WHO news conference on Monday, 1 February, by FIFA president Gianni Infantina and former Liverpool and England striker, Michael Owen.Ā 

FIFA will be launching their campaign during this monthā€™s Club World Club in Doha with a series of promotional videos featuring prominent players and coaches in the tournament, including Owen.Ā 

Infantino says of the campaign, ā€œWe all have to play our part in the battle against the coronavirus. We are also calling on the international community to act together to ensure a level playing field in relation to access to vaccines, treatments and diagnostic tests across the globe.ā€Ā 

5. Malaysiaā€™s MCO to be extended to 18 February

Malaysiaā€™ movement control order (MCO) is to be extended by two weeks to 18 February, as the rate of infection for COVID-19 within the nation is on the rise.

The decision to extend the MCO was made following a prior National Security Council (NSC) meeting, during which the Health Ministry confirmed that there was a ā€œtrend of rising casesā€ across all the states under the MCO.

Selected districts in Sarawak will continue to operate under a conditional MCO, which is less stringent.

While movement controls were originally slated to stop by 4 February, the rest of the nation has been subject to tighter movement regulations since 13 February.

On Tuesday, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri noted that the NSC would release new standard operating procedures (SOP) for the MCO. He also mentioned that businessesā€™ requests to continue operations would be taken into consideration, and that more concessions would be given to economic sectors.

Under stricter measures in the first MCO in early-2020, daily infections were lowered to single digits, which has since risen to over 5,000 patients for three days last week.

This comes with the current MCOā€™s allowance of various sectors, including construction and manufacturing, to continue business operations.

The extended MCO will restrict festivities for the upcoming Chinese New Year; distinct guidelines will only be announced a few days prior to the festival, which commences on 12 February.

However, travel within states may not be approved as Mr Ismail Sabri noted that this was a significant cause of new COVID-19 clusters. 21 fatalities and 3,445 new cases were reported on Tuesday, marking a total of 222,628 cases and 791 deaths to date.

To combat infection rates, Mr Ismail Sabri highlighted 10 strategies that the NSC has adopted, which include more stringent screening and enforcement operations, and a national vaccination programme.Ā Ā 

Khairy Jamaluddin, the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, noted that the vaccines would be delivered ā€œon scheduleā€ at the start of this month.Ā Ā 

Join the conversations on THG’sĀ FacebookĀ andĀ Instagram, and get the latest updates viaĀ Telegram.

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