SINGAPORE: More than 3,500 electronic wristband devices have been issued to travellers serving stay-home notices since Aug 10, said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) on Saturday (Sep 12).
Under current rules, travellers entering Singapore and serving stay-home notices outside of dedicated facilities are required to wear the devices. This initiative has been in place for slightly more than a month.
It applies to all travellers including Singaporeans, permanent residents, long-term pass holders, work pass holders and their dependents, said ICA, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Ministry of Education (MOE) previously.
Only those aged 12 and below are exempt.
At Singapore’s checkpoints, eligible travellers are issued both the electronic wristband device and a gateway device after immigration clearance.
They are required to wear the wristband for the entirety of their stay-home notice period and install the gateway device at their place of residence.
Speaking to reporters, Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Tan Hoe Koon, who is deputy director of ICA’s intelligence division, said that as Singapore’s borders reopen, ICA expects the number of travellers served with stay-home notices to rise.
A total of 162,668 stay-home notices have been issued by ICA as of 8am on Sep 12, of which 14,053 are active, said ICA.
READ: COVID-19: Travellers who serve stay-home notice outside of facilities after entering Singapore must wear electronic device
“As our borders re-open, we will expect more people returning and being served with stay-home notices. As this number increases, we need to manage our resources and the electronic monitoring device allows us to monitor the stay-home notice enforcement regime more effectively,” he said.
Previously, enforcement efforts centred around sending daily SMS texts, and making audio and video calls, said DAC Tan. Home visits were also conducted at least every alternate day.
But with the electronic monitoring regime, the checks are only done shortly after these travellers return to Singapore to ensure that they have registered the devices successfully and have put on their wristbands properly and securely, said DAC Tan.
Officers conduct subsequent visits only as and when necessary, or if they suspect that stay-home notice requirements are violated, he added.
“It is less reliant on manpower … when the number of persons we serve with stay-home notices increases with the reopening of our borders, the same number of resources can be used to manage a bigger group of persons served with stay-home notices,” said DAC Tan.
The wristband and gateway device communicate with each other via Bluetooth, and the gateway device sends signals to the back-end server of ICA.
READ: ’Like a mediator’: From spot checks to investigating breaches, here’s how ICA officers enforce stay-home notices
The user’s phone also sends GPS signals to the server. Should the individual leave the home, the GPS signals on the user’s phone will indicate to ICA officers roughly where the person is.
“We look at the data coming into the system, particularly any alerts triggered … Any attempts to leave the place of residence or tamper with their electronic devices will trigger an alert to our ICA system, after which we’ll conduct our follow up investigations,” explained assistant superintendent (ASP) Zhang Chengyao, who is an analyst.
These follow-ups can be in the form of calls, but officers can also conduct house visits to make sure nothing is amiss.
Since the implementation of the scheme, DAC Tan said a few “technical issues” have been flagged. Most of the time, the issues relate to the reception at the individual’s place of residence, he said.
Roughly 5 per cent to 10 per cent of those issued the wristbands have experienced such technical or connectivity problems, noted DAC Tan.
“We do experience a few PSHNs (persons placed on stay-home notices) who may be at locations that have poorer reception. So their devices may have intermittent connectivity issues,” he said.
“So when there are connectivity issues and we are not able to receive the data, there will be alerts (sent) … But when we call them, they actually are at home, and we do realise that they are facing some connectivity issues with the devices. And we will actually advise them on how to place their (gateway) devices in a more ideal situation in the residence, so that the signal (and the) reception can be improved.”
WATCH: More than 3,500 electronic wristband devices issued to travellers serving stay-home notices: ICA
After serving their stay-home notice, travellers have to deactivate the device and dispose of it or return it.
Those who are caught flouting the stay-home notice requirements or tampering with the device may be fined up to S$10,000 and jailed up to six months.
For foreigners, authorities may take “further administrative actions”, such as revoking or shortening the validity of permits and passes to remain or work in Singapore.