Innovations in Singapore's COVID-19 Response
An SMS and mobile web-based solution allows people serving out their SHN to report their locations using GPS and photos. With thousands of people in Singapore currently on SHN, the government sends automated text messages at various times throughout the day. These individuals are required to confirm their location within one hour using their phone's GPS location service by clicking on a unique link in the text message. Launched on 10 February 2020, this has served as the first level of verification of compliance.
This website, which is a collaborative effort from a number of Government ministries, has helped Singaporean households find the designated location, day and time to collect masks allocated by the Government. In addition to information on when and how to collect new masks, this site provides interactive community notice boards and a hotline for questions. Launched on 1 February 2020, the website registered more than 900,000 visits within the first two days. By providing a user feedback function on the website, the engineers behind the site have also been able to use this real-time information flow to make progressive updates and improvements to the site.
This website, linked to MaskGoWhere, has enabled quick and easy searching of Public Health Preparedness Clinics providing special subsidies for those diagnosed with respiratory illnesses. The Ministry of Health teamed up with GovTech to create this site with more than 846 clinics are participating. Since its launch on 14 February 2020, over 470,000 visits have been registered.
A special WhatsApp channel available to everyone living in Singapore was created to offer quick and reliable updates on the COVID-19 situation. These daily updates include information on new cases, new measures being implemented both in Singapore and other countries which have an impact on Singapore, and clarification of rumors and misinformation. Subscribers can sign up in one of 4 languages and the system is able to send multi-lingual messages to all subscribers within 30 minutes. To date, more than 635,000 unique subscribers have signed up to receive daily updates.
The "Ask Jamie" virtual assistant was designed in 2014 as an online service to answer questions from the public related to information across 70 government agency websites. The chatbot was recently enhanced to improve accuracy by addressing questions using machine learning. It is also able to analyse datasets to detect trending topics. In addition to the usual websites, users are also able to access the bot via Facebook Messenger and Telegram. Since 1 February 2020, the enhanced chatbot has addressed more than 72,000 queries related to the virus, and helped to reduce overall volume of calls into call centres.
This COVID-29 Chat for Biz chatbot offers information and Q&A services for businesses to learn about updates to the situation and measures put in place to assist them, including budgeting for the rest of the year. The chatbot has recorded about 980 sessions, and answered close to 3,000 queries since its launch on 19 February 2020.
Gov.sg maintains an easy-to-find and transparent log of all cases diagnosed in Singapore in order to limit panic, and to encourage those concerned of potential exposure to proactively engage with healthcare services. Without revealing the individual's identity, the site provides updated information daily on each case such as where the person has traveled, connections with previous cases, the areas of their work and home, and establishments they've frequented in the 14 days prior to diagnosis.
The Ministry of Health also maintains a site specifically dedicated to tackling misinformation. The Ministry tracks and addresses rumors and misinformation that have been shared widely in Singapore to set the record straight; providing specific clarification and links to more information.
Singapore has been utilising digital footprints to find out where positive cases have been in the fourteen days prior to their diagnosis. Of course, not all of us can remember everywhere we've been in the last 2 weeks, so the use of digital footprints helps fill in missing information on infected patients’ activities, travel routes and contacts. This is based on such movements like usage of rideshare apps, credit card payments, ATM withdrawls, movements on public transportation, etc. With this information, the government can inform people who were in the vicinity of the patient so that they are aware and can closely monitor their symptoms and practice social distancing.
Working together with a local medtech start-up, KroniKare, Singapore's Integrated Health Information Systems agency developed an AI-driven temperature screening device in two weeks. The device, which is made from a smartphone fitted with thermal and 3D laser cameras, is able to scan people's temperature as they walk, detecting and alerting when someone has a fever. This was a very tangible answer to the real issue of long lines and wait times to enter buildings when using manual forehead thermometers, which required every visitor to be stopped and screened. The AI device not only cuts down on wait time, but also provices a safer alternative for frontline staff who now can stay at a safe distance from the steady flow of people entering and exiting buildings.
The government also targeted R&D efforts developing their own testing kit which shortens the length of time taken to process results. The new kits deliver results within 3 hours using swab samples collected at Singapore’s checkpoints, with an accuracy of over 99%. The time saved allows efficient testing of suspected cases at priority locations, such as airports, getting those positive cases quickly to appropriate care and isolation before the virus can spread further.