• Sahul Salam

COVID-19 Edition: Crowd Control

The year 2020 will be known as a tumultuous year. Australian forest fires, protests in Hong Kong, and most notably, COVID-19. It tested world economies and effectively changed the way we live. Travelling would never be the same again, at least for the foreseeable future.


In Singapore’s context, the Government has stated that most of it’s measures will be in place for a long run (about a year) and hence every business has to be prepared for strict measures being implemented. A dip in profits goes without saying as well. The majority of hard-hit businesses are eateries, as more and more people turn to cooking their own meals.


Social Distancing

Social-distancing measures are undeniably the key to preventing the worsening of this pandemic. Major studies have shown that a distance of 1-2 metres between every individual can reduce the spread of the virus. The reduced transmissibility of the virus due to the enforcement of social distancing is further bolstered by the Singapore Government’s mandatory requirement to wear face masks whenever individuals leave their homes.


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As such, with stores open, social distancing measures have to be enforced at all times. At a distance of 1 metre apart, only 50 individuals can be in any store at any one time, and only a limited amount of people can be in a mall. Crowd control has to be put into place in view of COVID-19 to ensure rules are being followed. To control crowds is another issue altogether.


SafeEntry

SafeEntry is a national digital check-in system that logs the NRIC/FINs and mobile numbers of individuals visiting hotspots, workplaces of essential services, as well as selected public venues to prevent and control the transmission of COVID-19 through contact tracing and identification of COVID-19 clusters.


Individuals check in and out from SafeEntry at entry and exit points through using the SingPass Mobile app to scan a QR code or choose from a list of nearby locations using the ‘SafeEntry Check-In’ function.


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Alternatively, an identification card with a barcode can be scanned by staff, or you can also scan a QR code displayed at the venue and submit your personal particulars. The latter is the most commonly used method, as many people nowadays possess a smartphone that has QR-code scanning capabilities.


Furthermore, SafeEntry has been progressively rolled out to taxis to better support contact tracing efforts for street-hail trips. All commuters who get onto a taxi should scan the SafeEntry QR codes displayed in them when taking street-hail trips.


Singapore Spacer

Scientists from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Singapore Management University (SMU) have worked together to create the Singapore Spacer. Likened to traffic on the expressway, this crowd mapping technology measures the density of human traffic instead.


The system has used NUS campuses for testing since April 3rd, and it works by aggregating real-time location information using the Wi-Fi signal strength received from thousands of mobile devices across campus.


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However, this method not entirely accurate. Not everyone who is in the campus would be using the campus Wi-Fi, so the numbers may be a little off. But it’s a good start. Their next step is to work with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to implement the same system on its campuses and subsequently scale it up to the whole of Singapore.


For covering the entire country, Associate Professor Rajesh Balan from SMU says they would need to leverage systems that are already deployed countrywide, such as the cellular networks.


Rajesh Krishna Balan, Associate Professor of Information Systems at SMU Source


The scientists are currently working with telco companies in order to obtain anonymised location data that will make the nationwide project possible. No one knows how secure this is for sure, but time will tell. The data shows how many mobile phones there are in a certain space, thus mapping crowd density in that particular area.


SpaceOut

SpaceOut allows you to view crowd levels in malls, supermarkets, markets, post offices, and stadiums across Singapore at a glance. It provides regular updates on the crowd levels in malls, supermarkets, markets, post offices and stadiums across Singapore.


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It’s jointly developed by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and operators of retail malls, supermarkets, markets, postal services, and stadiums, and the website is owned and operated by the URA.


This helps the public make more informed choices on where and when to purchase their essential goods and services. It’s also available in all four languages, and presents less crowded options near you.


Apart from mall data, the website also allows users to see the crowd levels for supermarkets, post offices and markets too.


Conclusion


Singapore has rolled out and pioneered many initiatives to enforce crowd control. This has made controlling the spread of COVID-19 more easier. These initiatives, together with the circuit breaker in April, have successfully curbed the spread of COVID-19 in Singapore.

More can definitely be done, but the onus is on us Singaporeans to observe safe distancing rules and regulations, and constantly exercise responsibility.