[COVIDWatch]: Are NEA officers scanning people’s phones to check their vaccination status?

By October 21, 2021 COVID-19, Health

We came across this post on Reddit:

The author of the Reddit post shares a screenshot of a message sent to a family group chat and asks if there is indeed such a scam going on, or if it’s just an unreliable recount of an experience fuelled by paranoia.

Before we go into the claims made, we’re first assuming that the author is actually referring to Newton Circus, given that there is no such place called “Newton Circle” in Singapore.

In the message, we read that the author was at Newton Circus when two individuals holding a scanner asked to scan the phone of the author “to check whether [they’re] vaccinated or not”. This was in spite of the author having already shown their vaccination status to the men, presumably via the TraceTogether app.

The author then stated that they refused to let the men scan their phone due to security reasons, even though they were purportedly carrying NEA badges that the author could not confirm the authenticity of. The author then stated that the two men eventually walked away.

It is uncertain the exact location of the vicinity the author was at, but given that Newton Circus typically refers to the roundabout where 8 roads converge, the author could very well be referring to the Newton Food Centre, which is located next to Newton Circus.

Scanning of tokens or of phones?

On 9 October, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced the expansion of vaccinated-differentiated safe management measures. Since 13 October, unvaccinated individuals are not allowed to enter places like shopping malls and attractions. They will also not be able to dine at hawker centres and coffee shops but can buy takeaway food.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) revealed on 19 October that more than 800 individuals who were not fully vaccinated were found to have been eating at hawker centres in the past week. Partially vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals were urged to finish their meals and leave the hawker centre after, given that enforcement action will only be taken from 20 October as authorities gave individuals one week to adapt to the new rules.

NEA said that safe distancing ambassadors and personnel from town councils will “continue to remind patrons that only those who are fully vaccinated can dine in”, but checks on vaccination status would not be conducted at entry points “to avoid queues and inconvenience to patrons who may be entering the hawker centre to purchase food for takeaway”.

However, safe distancing enforcement officers will “conduct selective checks of patrons who are dining in to ensure they are vaccinated”, in which diners can either show the officers their vaccination status on their TraceTogether app, or provide their TraceTogether token to be scanned.

In a media release by NEA on 19 October, we also read that “diners can either show enforcement officers the vaccination ‘green tick’ verification on the TraceTogether (TT) App, or provide their TT token to be scanned to determine the vaccination status”.

We have reached out to NEA for clarification on this incident, but it is false that safe distancing officers need to scan individuals’ phones to check their vaccination status, as showing the vaccination ‘green tick’ verification on the TraceTogether app or scanning the token is already sufficient.

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