June 17, 2020 / 4:51 AM / 2 months ago

Digital health passports could help get fans back into stadiums

LONDON (Reuters) - The Premier League returns in empty stadiums on Wednesday after months of COVID-19 lockdown but digital health passports could help get soccer fans back through the turnstiles, according to the company carrying out tests for the league.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Manchester United v Manchester City - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - March 8, 2020 General view as some fans wear masks for protection against the novel coronavirus. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Genetic testing and digital health company Prenetics, also known as CircleDNA, announced on Tuesday the launch of what it said was the first such COVID-19 offering for sports.

The company has tested 8,687 Premier League players and staff for the virus as part of requirements for the return to action.

Avi Lasarow, Prenetics’ chief executive for the EMEA region, told Reuters that digital health passports also offered the potential for eventually allowing matches to be played in front of spectators again.

“I think it’s going to be a big game-changer in terms of linking COVID-19 testing results... to a digital access mechanism based on biometrics and other such factors,” he said in a Zoom interview.

“With any innovation, you’re always thinking about what the end goal is... in the world of sport it’s about getting fans back into the stadium.”

“You could see a position whereby fans scan their health passport information very securely to determine whether their test is valid and they have a negative COVID-19 result.”

The digital health passport is a web-based platform that shows a person’s COVID-19 testing status and history by scanning a QR code to secure access to any venues where safety is a concern.

Participants would enrol via email and upload a profile photograph to be verified by the sponsoring club before they can unlock a personal code. The health passport will then be accessible via mobile phone.

The cost of regular testing has been highlighted as an obstacle for some fans, however.

Lasarow said the passport could also be used by employers keen to get employees back to work, with Prenetics recently securing a contract in the aviation sector.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis

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