Demand for TraceTogether tokens higher than expected: Janil

The surge in demand for TraceTogether tokens last month was higher than the Government had expected, said Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary.

He told the House yesterday that the Government had anticipated it would need to persuade more people to join the TraceTogether programme instead.

"The concern at the time was whether or not there would be enough demand, so we wanted to be prudent in terms of the production, (and) launch the process early even as production was ramping up," he said in response to Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC).

Dr Tan had asked for the number of tokens distributed at a TraceTogether mobile booth in Clementi Mall on Oct 25, as well as what lessons can be drawn from early distribution experiences.

He recounted how his residents said the tokens were out of stock 12 minutes after collection at the mall started at 11am.

Dr Janil said 762 tokens were distributed at Clementi Mall on Oct 25 and that "demand was very high".

The distribution of tokens started in September, and residents could collect them at 38 community centres (CCs) last month.

But demand spiked after the Government announced that TraceTogether would be made mandatory to enter places such as restaurants and malls.

The long queues at certain CCs prompted the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group to halt distribution, before restarting the process in limited fashion from last Thursday.

Distribution has resumed at Marsiling, Woodgrove and Yew Tee CCs, and will be extended to the remaining CCs from now until next month.

Workers' Party MP Gerald Giam (Aljunied GRC) suggested distributing the tokens to students in schools before the end of school term, so that parents do not need to queue at CCs to collect them for their children.

He also called for more public education about the TraceTogether app, which performs the same function as the token, in order to reduce queues at CCs.

The app, which has drawn complaints about draining phone batteries, should be improved as well so more users are willing to download it, he said.

In response, Dr Janil said parents have already been collecting tokens at CCs for their children, and that some schools do allow students to carry smartphones, which means they can use the TraceTogether app.

"I agree with (Mr Giam) that further public education is needed to... reduce misinformation about what the app does," said Dr Janil.