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Singapore distributes pocket-sized coronavirus contact-tracing device

By Tanisha Jindal

According to a Reuters blog post, Singapore started distributing pocket-sized COVID-19 contact-tracing devices to inhabitants on Monday as an aspect of a planned nationwide rollout to enable the city-state safely reopen its economy. While the government schedules of universally distributing the tokens, elderly residents have been on the top of the list because they are less probable to have smartphones and hence possess the prevailing app. They are also more vulnerable to the disease.

Just like a smartphone app disclosed by the government previously, the box-shaped tokens detect Bluetooth signals to tally nearby devices and save encrypted data of a users' close contacts. In case if any of the users test positive for COVID-19, the device with him/her has to be given up to the authorities to take out the data on other people he/she might have likely exposed to the virus. Perceiving the authorities' statement, although the contact-tracing app has confronted technical issues, mainly on Apple devices where its operating system withdraws Bluetooth scanning when the app operates in the background, it has been installed by around 40% of residents.

Singapore has notified that its contact-tracing token will compile data locally for no more than 25 days and it does not have internet or cellular connectivity so far the privacy issues are concerned. The island city-state has not yet made the app or token compulsory rather prompted residents to use them whenever they are outside their homes. Till now Singapore has reached 57,488 COVID-19 cases, largely in cramped migrant worker dormitories, but only 27 people have died from the disease which is one of the lowest fatality rates worldwide.

One of the elderly residents, a 60-year-old Noor Rahmat, who queued at a community centre on Monday with the purpose to collect the devices that can be worn with the help of a lanyard or held in a handbag said, "I'm not good at technology." He further said, "We have to follow rules, this is for the benefit of yourself and others."

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