Come Right Up, Walk Right Through

There is no more Trace Together entry scans. Go in and out of malls as you please. One big leap towards ‘freedom’?

Doors at malls are all open. There is no more one entry point and one exit. From today, shopping malls do not require visitors to scan in, or scan out. No one will stop you to make sure you do. TraceTogether is over! Life may not have entirely returned to pre-pandemic days, but this is, where going shopping is concerned, as close as it gets. We are not sure if the footfall at malls has increased (possibly too soon to tell), but when we visited the few always with a long line of visitors getting in, we noticed that there were more people than we expected, even for a Tuesday morning. Will the riddance of entry “hassles” of the past two years prompt the return of more shoppers?

Around noon, at the ION Orchard Basement 2 entrance that faces the exit of the MRT station (now back to a two-way flow), the traffic did not look more daunting than usual, as most visitors were able to hurry right into the vast entryway. Not a hint of what crowd-control measures were in place before: The temper-provoking retractable metal barriers that forced visitors to go through an up/down, up/down course before hitting the “checkpoint” were nowhere to be seen. Now, in that considerable expanse, under which a massive video screen of fake foliage and sky projected a cheery day, one felt free, if not freedom. When we asked an MRT staff, what exit that was—so that we could tell the people we were meeting where to wait, she said, “Tell them to stand outside Channel (sic), lah!”

Similarly, at the opposite side, going into Wisma Atria was a breeze. This entrance is not only a way into the mall, it’s also, for many, a conduit to adjoining Takashimaya Shopping Centre—and further. Without restrictions now, the freer access seemed to make the number of entrants look small. Was the entrance this wide? No physical evidence was left here that would remind us of the queues we encountered each time we had to go in. But a small notice on a signage stand, easily missable, was erected next to the busy-looking store Skechers. The text above an illustration of a masked man read, “PLEASE WEAR A FACE MASK AT ALL TIMES WHEN INDOORS”. TraceTogether-free, a lithe little lass in a whisper of a dress floated in, barely masked up. No one was there to ensure she did, properly.

The conspicuous absence of the TraceTogether QR codes and oblong devices on which to tap electronic tokens was met with delight. “At last,” squealed a uniform-clad student when she saw that the coast in front of her at Wisma Atria was clear, and the token in her hand redundant. TraceTogether was not a popular token or app, nor a tracking tool. Many people we spoke to couldn’t wait to be rid of it. Some likened carrying the token to be being strapped with an ankle monitor. Even when it existed as an unobtrusive but battery-zapping app, it found very few fans, except, possibly, the developers at GovTech. TraceTogether may not be required for now, but we are—no matter how easy it is now to enter a mall—living in a surveillance society and engaging in a surveillance economy. Peace.

Illustrations: Just So

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