According to Reuters
, a new mobile app has been launched by the Singapore government that helps the authorities know who has been in contact with people infected with coronavirus, The app, called TraceTogether, exchanges Bluetooth signals with participating phones that are within six and a half feet of each other. Each encounter will be stored locally by each phone that has the app installed.
When a person is confirmed to have coronavirus, the health ministry will request that the information from his/her phone be sent to them; compliance with this is not an option. An official statement reveals that the government will not have access to this information until it is sent to them. English language Singapore broadcaster CNA posted a video
on YouTube that shows how the app works.
The app was developed by Singapore’s Government Technology Agency (GovTech) and the Health Ministry. Data stored on individuals' phones will be encrypted and the app will not be able to access a user's location data. Janil Puthucheary, a senior minister of state, said, "The engineering has preserved the privacy of the users from each other.." The government is not forcing its citizens to install the TraceTogether app but encourages people to do so. The listing in the App Store says that the functionality of TraceTogether will be suspended after the crisis ends.
The country is taking the pandemic very seriously and has strict rules that it follows. For example, in February it charged a couple from China with giving authorities false information about their movements; Singapore officials were looking to track the couple's social interactions in the country. Security cameras and police have been used to track suspected carriers of the virus.
TraceTogether is available from the App Store and the Google Play Store. As of yesterday, Singapore had 385 confirmed COVID-19 cases with zero deaths. With the app, the government can keep track of people who were in contact with an infected person and use this info to stop the spread of the disease.
It might be a good idea for other countries to consider offering a similar app in order to slow down the spread of the coronavirus and flatten the curve. The latter would allow the disease to run its cost without overtaxing hospitals in a particular country.