Our COVID-19 Journey: From Pandemic to Endemic

More than two years since Singapore reported its first COVID-19 case, we take a look back at our role in building technology products and infrastructure that has enabled Singapore’s shift towards endemicity.

Early days of COVID-19

In 2020, we deployed OGP products to enable the government to respond swiftly to contain the spread of COVID-19. This includes:

  • Gov.sg and Postman, which enabled the mass sending of more than a billion instantaneous COVID-19 updates to citizens.
  • PaySG, which enabled incoming travellers to conveniently pay for swab tests and hotel stays when serving their quarantine.
  • Homer helped the Ministry of Health with tracking and enforcement of Stay-Home Notices (SHN) and Quarantine Orders (QO).
  • Isomer enabled MOH’s SG Healthcare Corps to launch within one week, and recruited 22,000 healthcare volunteers within months to support critical healthcare and swabbing operations.
  • RedeemSG was integrated with more than 1000 mask vending machines island-wide to ensure that citizens could easily redeem free masks in their neighbourhoods.

Testing and Vaccination

As new testing regimes emerged, we developed a new Antigen Rapid Test (ART) registration system to facilitate pre-event and border checkpoints testing by enabling fuss-free registration and timely result notifications. Since then, millions of ART tests have been administered and recorded by this system.

With the first stockpile of COVID-19 vaccines arriving on our shores in late December 2020, we built a suite of systems to support the national vaccination programme. Within two weeks, we launched the National Appointment System for COVID-19 Vaccination, a proxy booking system to enable volunteers to book on behalf of seniors, as well as a clinic system that enabled vaccination sites to actualise appointments. A command-and-control system was also built to ensure timely resupply and optimal distribution of traffic across vaccination centres.

More than 13 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered so far, and these records are stored within our COVID-19 Management Backbone which both validates incoming data streams and derives statuses from them. Millions of test and vaccination statuses are retrieved daily from this backbone by applications such as TraceTogether and HealthHub.

Read more about how technology accelerated Singapore’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout here.

Towards Endemic: Home Care and Recovery

As more of the population got vaccinated, a greater proportion of patients had only mild symptoms and could recover from home. To support the Ministry’s shift towards home recovery by default, we built a case management integrated with Zendesk which automates and facilitates each step of a COVID-19 patient journey from notifications to risk-based sorting and conveyances to care facilities. Such automations enabled home recovery operations to scale from 400 to more than 20,000 cases daily, improved response time to public queries by 70%, and reduced processing time for Health Risk Warnings by 80%.

With the situation being in constant flux, we realized quickly that having clear and understandable public communications was paramount to a successful implementation of new public health protocols. To alleviate the stresses on official hotlines, OGP launched an info site covid.gov.sg using Isomer (a website builder for government), and made answers to public queries more discoverable and retrievable using AskGov (a quora for government) and CheckFirst (an online checker builder). Put together, these products formed a coherent technological response to challenges of transitioning into endemicity.

Keeping COVID-19 records in Sync

In endemic, individuals and organisations need to be empowered to be the first line of defense to detect clusters early and contain the spread of new variants. At the same time, there is need to balance the need for individual privacy and control over their own COVID-19 data. Sync allows individuals to have fuller control over their COVID-19 related data, and enable easy remote and consent-based sharing of verified test and vaccination records with organisations. With Sync, a food delivery driver can share or withdraw his/her data with multiple platforms by toggling ‘on’ and ‘off’ respectively. Employers and organisations receive consolidated reports of test and vaccination results everyday, and can help to encourage COVID-19 positive patients to stay home, and to receive booster shots when they are due to. Since launch, we have seen more than 150k users across 80 organisations on Sync.

Looking ahead

These products and systems for COVID-19 were often built swiftly on a just-in-time basis, to help Singapore cope with the ever-evolving nature of this pandemic. Many agencies apart from OGP had been deeply involved in various parts of this marathon, and many of these products would not have been possible without their collaboration and contributions. Beyond endemic, we look forward to working more closely with agencies across government to tackle the most pressing challenges of our time.

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