Anyone entering Singapore who has to serve a 14-day stay-home quarantine will soon need to wear an electronic monitoring device, which must be activated once they arrive at their place of residence. The device taps GPS as well as cellular and Bluetooth signals to determine if the wearer is within the range of their permitted location.
If the monitoring device is not activated as required, the relevant authorities will check on the person's location and work to resolve any technical issues or take enforcement action, whichever is needed. Non-compliance or any attempts to tamper or remove the device during the stay-home period will result in prosecution, according to a joint statement Monday by Singapore's Immigration & Checkpoints Authority, Ministry of Manpower, and Ministry of Education.
Anyone caught breaching the order may be charged with a fine of up to SG$10,000 and/or jail term of up to six months. Foreigners also may face other administrative actions including revoking or shortening of their permits and passes to remain or work in the city-state.
The government agencies said the move was necessary to "enhance" compliance with quarantine orders as Singapore gradually reopened its borders to international travel and, hence, reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission by new entrants to the local community.
The agencies have been monitoring stay-home compliance through manual and automated text messages as well as phone and video calls. Physical house visits also are made to ensure compliance. The addition of wearable monitoring devices will enable the government to monitor those serving stay-home orders more effectively as travel restrictions are lifted.
Since March 21, all incoming travellers are required to serve a 14-day stay-home notice upon entering Singapore, where they can do so either at their place of residence or dedicated facilities. They are tested for COVID-19 before the end of their stay-home notice period.
From August 10, anyone serving their stay-home notice outside of dedicated facilities will need to wear the electronic monitoring device throughout the 14-day period. The mandate applies to all incoming travellers including citizens, work pass holders, and long-term pass holders, but excludes those aged 12 and below. Students serving their stay-home orders in hostels within educational institutions also are excluded, since they will be under close observation at such facilities.
The monitoring devices will be issued at checkpoints after immigration clearance and must be activated once travellers reach their place of residence. According to the government agencies, the monitoring device neither stores personal data nor have voice or video recording functions.
They said information, such as GPS and Bluetooth signal data, transmitted from the device to the authorities' backend system will be protected by "end-to-end certificate-based encryption".
They added that authorities would abide by public sector data protection rules in managing and safeguarding personal data collected through the monitoring device, which would be accessed only by authorised agents for the purposes of monitoring and investigation.
During the 14-day stay-home period, device wearers may receive notifications on their device and will need to acknowledge these in a "timely manner". Attempts to leave their place of residence, outside of their scheduled appointments for COVID-19 tests, or tamper with the device will trigger an alert, which is sent to the authorities for follow-up investigations.
These monitoring devices are to be deactivated after the stay-home notice is fulfilled and disposed of or returned according to instructions provided.
Singapore has developed an app as well as wearable devices to aid in its contact tracing efforts, but has yet to make their use mandatory. Initial news about its plans to roll out wearable devices had triggered an outcry amongst those concerned about their privacy.
The country's COVID-19 infections in recent weeks have included imported cases, including nine today, all of whom had been placed on stay-home orders upon their arrival.