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Non-quarantining concertgoers fined in Covid-free Taiwan

Seven people who attended attended a stadium concert on new year’s eve instead of self-isolating have been fined by Taiwanese authorities for endangering public health.

The concertgoers – who had been ordered to observe ‘self-health management’ (ie self-isolate/quarantine) after coming into contact with someone infected with Covid-19 – went to see veteran Mandopop band Mayday perform at Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium near Taipei on 31 December.

Over 22,000 people attended the show, according to Taiwan News, part-way through which “news broke out that several individuals who were supposed to be following self-health management protocols were in the crowd”.

The seven were caught out by Taiwan’s mobile phone-based contact tracing system, dubbed “Skynet”

Taiwan’s Central News Agency reports that the potentially infected septet were caught out by the country’s mobile phone-based contact tracing system, dubbed “Skynet”, which clocked them just half an hour after they left their houses.

Three of the Mayday fans, who were supposed to be quarantining for another three days, were each fined NT$70,000 (US$2,460), while the other four, who each had one day to go, received fines of NT$30,000 (US$1,070).

Taiwan, which is home to nearly 24m people, on 22 December recorded its first domestic case of Covid-19 in over 250 days. The island country was the first to return to hosting full-capacity major events, with arena shows restarting in August.


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Fans are Back: UK firms present Covid pass to PM

Following Wednesday’s much-discussed press briefing, a consortium of UK companies has presented prime minister Boris Johnson with a Covid-19 testing solution that aims to get fans back into entertainment and sports venues.

Described as an “end-to-end, 360-degree” testing and technology solution, Fans are Back was conceived by Manchester-based tech company VST Enterprises Ltd (VSTE), sports marketing consultancy Redstrike, event safety specialist Halo and occupational health provider Latus Health.

It incorporates Covid-19 testing, contact tracing and a health ‘passport’, and follows Johnson’s suggestion earlier this week that venues could be allowed to open without social distancing through a combination of mass testing and passes/passports certifying attendees’ healthiness.

The plan – which has already been put in front of both Johnson and the British government’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee – involves the use of 10-minute rapid test kits and a secure digital health passport that authorises a person’s identity and their Covid-19 test status.

A built-in track-and-trace app, part of VSTE’s existing VHealth Passport infrastructure, uses anonymised data to detect positive infection contacts in venues, stadia and theatres.

“Concert venues, sports stadia and theatres cannot survive much longer without an end-to-end solution”

VSTE’s CEO, Louis-James Davis, comments: “VHealth Passport is the unique 360-degree solution in getting all music venues, concerts, sports stadia and theatres back to full capacity securely and safely without the need to social distance.

“We know that while social-distancing pilots have worked, they cannot be sustained in the long term because of the financial economics of not having fans present. A regime of rapid testing alongside existing PCR-based tests is the only way we can progress forward, and was in tune with how the prime minister outlined the government’s plan for mass testing. This is vital not just for the British economy, but our entire way of life.

“Concert venues, sports stadia and theatres cannot survive much longer without an end-to-end solution that is safe and secure…”

The Fans are Back plan has won the backing of former sports minister Richard Caborn, as well as Olympians and royals Mike and Zara Tindall (the Queen’s granddaughter).

Davis is optimistic his solution will have greater take-up than the government’s own contact-tracing app, pointing to the fact that music fans will be incentivised to get tested in order to attend concerts again.

The Fans are Back solution incorporates Covid-19 testing, contact tracing and a health passport

“The UK government’s NHS contact-tracing app had a number of issues, from privacy and security through to false flag alerts and a general apathy by the public to engage,” he continues. “Put simply, there was no incentive for the public to engage and adopt the ‘track-and-trace’ system.

“The reason why the VHealth Passport will have greater engagement with the public is simply down to incentive. We engage with audiences to adopt testing and passporting and incentivise their attendance.

“If a music or sports fan or theatregoer wants to attend an event, then they will only be allowed into that venue having taken a Covid-19 test prior to their arrival and their negative test result uploaded to a valid VHealth Passport by a qualified health care professional and scanned upon entry.”

Five months in development, the test and passport combination is priced at £15 (€16.20). VSTE currently has 200 testing centres in its app, and says it expects this to rise to more than 1,000 in the coming weeks.


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Johnson: Covid ‘pass’ could herald safe return to live

The British prime minister, Boris Johnson, said today (9 September) that mass testing for Covid-19 could allow live events to restart without social distancing before a vaccine is available.

In a 4pm press conference, Johnson floated the idea of temporary ‘passes’, issued to people following a negative Covid-19 test, that would allow them to attend a live entertainment or sporting event and “mingle” with other healthy attendees.

The UK is working towards increasing its testing capacity to 500,000 a day, Johnson told journalists, which would allow those who don’t have the disease to behave “normally”, including at major events such as concerts.

He added that such a scheme – which would see venues turning away those who don’t have a Covid pass or who test positive at the door – will be piloted in Salford, Manchester, in the coming months, with plans to roll it out more widely should it prove successful.

Johnson described the idea for virus ‘passports’ as his “moonshot” to restart live events

Johnson described the idea for virus ‘passports’ as his “moonshot” to restart live events, and said he hopes it could be live by next spring.

The press conference follows similar reports in the UK press over the weekend, with health secretary Matt Hancock even more optimistic, telling LBC on Saturday that he hopes 24-hour passes could be available by Christmas.

Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn told IQ in July he is “incredibly optimistic” about the UK’s 2021 festival summer, even in the absence of a vaccine, saying testing for Covid-19 has come on leaps and bounds since the start of the pandemic. He expressed similar sentiments at yesterday’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing at parliament, emphasising the need for widespread testing of would-be festivalgoers.

The UK had 2,460 daily cases of the coronavirus yesterday (8 September).


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Spanish promoter develops Covid-tracking app

A Spanish concert promoter has developed Spain’s first track-and-trace tool for concertgoers and nightclubbers.

Created by Granada promoter, DJ and production manager Álex Garvín Delgado, CEO of Girando Eventos, Alerta Covid aims to help control and contain outbreaks of coronavirus in Andalusia, where it is mandatory for all clubbers to share their personal data to assist in tracing the spread of the virus.

The system launched yesterday (6 August) at a concert in Cadiz, Garvín tells Radio Granada’s Hoy por Hoy Granada, with attendees able to scan a QR code with their phones to access the Alerta Covid platform.

Track and trace, or contact tracing, allows public health authorities to identify everyone who has been in contact with someone who has Covid-19, thus containing the spread of the virus by ordering them to self-isolate.

Such systems are credited with helping fans get back to shows in advance of a vaccine against Covid-19, most notably in South Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand, with Austria also announcing recently that contact tracing would allow it to permit 10,000-person shows from September.


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NZ events to reopen fully with contact tracing

All capacity restrictions and social distancing restrictions on live events could be removed in New Zealand as early as next week, as prime minister Jacinda Ardern prepares to move into the final stage of lockdown easing.

Laying out what alert level one would mean for New Zealanders in a press conference this week, Ardern indicated that the country could enter this final phase of lifting – which effectively removes all restrictions for businesses – as early as 10 June, with the cabinet meeting on Monday (8 June) to set a date.

Under alert level one, there will be no restrictions on the number of people who can attend concerts, sports events or other gatherings, and no requirements for physical distancing at such events. The capacity limit on events is currently 100.

Ardern states the government would work alongside organisers of large-scale events and ticketing agencies to develop a “Covid code”, ensuring details of those attending are collected to facilitate effective contact tracing.

Nightclubs, which have been unable to open under level two, will be permitted to reopen fully when the new regulations come into place, with dancing and mingling no longer off-limits.

“We want to work alongside those who put on events, so that they do have information available to help us with contact tracing”

“We may be confident that we’re an environment where we do not have Covid in circulation, but if we have a situation where even one case emerges, and it’s found that they had been in attendance at a large event, we always have to be prepared to be able to contact trace successfully,” says Ardern.

“[This] is why we want to work alongside those who put on events, large sporting events, music events, work with ticketing agencies, so that they do have information available for short periods of time to help us with contact tracing.”

New Zealand’s Ministry of Health released the NZ Covid Tracer app on 20 May. Those who download the app create a digital diary of the places they visit by scanning QR codes displayed at the entrances to venues and othe business premises or public buildings.

The New Zealand government recently dedicated NZ$16.5 million (€9.2m) to aid the recovery of its live music industry, as part of a wider $175 million (€98m) financial stimulus package for the arts and creative sectors.

The move was discussed at the first IPM Says virtual panel which took place today, and can be watched back on YouTube. A full write up of the session will be published on IQ tomorrow.


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FR boss unveils plan to restart industry at full capacity

Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic, has designed an incentive-based plan to allow the restarting of live shows at full capacity, through an increase of testing and contract tracing.

Social distancing has proved a controversial topic within the live industry, with many sharing doubts as to the viability of putting on reduced-capacity shows.

The Full Capacity Plan aims to facilitate the reopening of the leisure sector without capacity limitations, by increasing public use of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) Trace App and upping participation in testing through an incentive-based scheme.

The plan would see those who have bought tickets to shows or booked a table at a restaurant invited to attend a high-street shop to collect a home-testing kit and download the NH tracing app.

Those who test negative and agree to use the tracing app would be allowed to return to concerts, pubs, theatres and sporting events.

Although the UK government currently has the capacity to test 1.4 million people a week, fewer than 700,000 weekly tests are taking place, “because there is no incentive”, says Benn, who oversees events including Wireless, Download, Latitude and Reading and Leeds festivals.

“I am proposing the Full Capacity Plan to stimulate the debate about getting back to normal opening rather than partial opening”

“My plan is to create incentive, to test at least double the current capacity and be aiming for 12 to 15m people a month being tested minimum,” explains Benn.

“I am proposing the Full Capacity Plan to stimulate the debate about getting back to normal opening rather than partial opening because partial opening is financial disaster opening.

“[The plan] is simple and easy, inexpensive in comparison to the subsidies that the government is currently paying and very achievable with good organisation.”

A provisional timeline foresees a pilot scheme beginning later this month, in partnership with the British government, with the first events going ahead in accordance with the plan in August.

If all goes well, the industry may be able to restart at full capacity by November.

The virtual edition of Download Festival, Download TV, is taking place from 12 to 14 June, with exclusive footage from headliners Kiss, Iron Maiden and System of a Down, whereas the virtual-reality Wireless Connect will air from 3 to 5 July.


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Ticketing companies gear up for post-Covid-19 future

Ticket agencies and technology companies are preparing for the return of live entertainment by introducing new features and functionalities tailored to the post-Covid-19 world.

UK-headquartered See Tickets, which is also active in the US, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and, most recently, Switzerland, has developed a contactless access-control system that uses a standalone scanning point requiring no physical interaction from fans or staff.

Once the customer scans their ticket, venue staff can view the results from a distance, providing event organisers with “the safest possible way to manage entry”, says See.

Rob Wilmshurst, See Tickets’ global CEO, comments: “Like our clients, See are adapting to the challenges in the market and looking at safe ways to operate going forward. We’re already well equipped to build features like time-slot entry to limit event capacity, and our ‘zero-contact’ access control solution will complement this.”

Smaller venues and promoters will also be able to benefit from the technology via an upgrade to the See Tickets Access Control app that increases the range from which their device can scan tickets (when used with a stand).

“We are adapting to the challenges in the market and looking at safe ways to operate going forward”

Other companies offering contactless solutions include New York-based mobile computing firm Janam, whose GT1 device uses tap-and-go technology from Google and Apple to eliminate direct contact between fan and ticket-taker, and Texas’s SimpleTix, which is capitalising on the boom in drive-in concerts by providing its digital ticketing platform to venues experimenting with drive-in shows.

“With a viable vaccine for Covid-19 likely a minimum of 18 months away, we expect drive-in theatres to be big for at least the next two-to-three years,” says Lauren Javors, SimpleTix’s business development manager. “We look forward to being part of that growth.”

Down under, ticketing technology company Intix has developing a contact-tracing add-on for its platform that aims to help the Australian government with tracking the spread of the disease.

Alex Grant, the company’s CEO, explains: “We developed this add-on in the hopes that by assisting the government with contact tracing we may be able to cautiously help our customers open their doors and get events and gigs back up and running.”

“It’s clear that mass gatherings will not go ahead without some way to track who’s turning up in case they are later diagnosed with Covid-19,” Grant adds, explaining that the stems from the government’s own COVIDSafe App, which is intended to speed up contacting people exposed to coronavirus.

“This ticketing add-on we have developed should assist the government to reach more people”

“From what I understand, not everyone has downloaded the government app; however, this ticketing add-on we have developed should assist the government to reach more people.”

Festicket, meanwhile, is getting in on livestreaming, having announced the launch of Festicket Live, which gives promoters and artists the ability to host both free and ticketed live streams on YouTube or Vimeo.

The new platform allow artists or event organisers to set up their own customisable and unique streaming page, which will include the embedded live stream, webchat, links to social media profiles and the option to include a shop for donations, merchandise and more.

Festicket’s marketing director, Luis Sousa, says: “The past weeks and months have seen a dramatic shift to online streaming, with over 60% of our customers saying they had watched a live stream since the lockdown began.

“We see this trend continuing, and possibly even remaining once physical festivals and events begin to return. We therefore wanted to offer music fans a platform that allows them to engage with the artists and festivals they love, while also providing artists and promoters with a new revenue stream, considering the pressures the industry is currently under.”


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South Korea: Venues open, despite Covid-19 spike

There are no plans to reinstate social distancing in South Korea, one of the first countries to report cases of Covid-19, despite a spike in infections linked to a cluster of venues in Seoul, the country’s deputy health minister has said.

Health officials were placed on high alert last week when a 29-year-old clubgoer tested positive for Covid-19 after having visited five nightlife venues in the neighbourhood of Itaewon, potentially exposing thousands to the virus, according to UPI. At press time, there had been 76 confirmed patients who attended the Itaewon clubs, as well as 43 who were infected through secondary transmission.

While some Seoul nightclubs and bars were temporarily re-shuttered, the government has stood by its decision to ease restrictions by reopening offices, public facilities and sports centres, reports Reuters. Despite the reopenings, daily infections remain under 50 a day (for comparison, the still-locked-down UK, which has only 15 million more people than South Korea’s 51.6m, is still reporting more than 3,000 daily cases).

“For now, we will monitor how the current transmissions go and review [at a later date] whether we should reconsider our distancing policy,” said Kim Gang-lip at a media briefing today (13 May).

Live entertainment began to return to Korea in March, after the January–February peak in infections, at a time when much of the western world was still formulating its response to the growing pandemic.

“For now, we will monitor how the current transmissions go and review whether we should reconsider”

Key to South Korea’s success in getting the coronavirus under control is its robust programme of testing and tracing, which experts believe could provide a model for other countries to restart their economies while keeping their citizens safe. Kim also said today there will be no return to social distancing while authorities can trace at least 95% of infections.

According to the Guardian, “by the time the World Health Organization issued its plea in mid-March for countries to “test, test, test”, South Korea had spent weeks doing just that, quickly developing the capability to test an average of 12,000 people – and sometimes as many as 20,000 – a day at hundreds of drive-through and walk-in testing centres. The mobile centres conducted the tests free of charge within 10 minutes, with the results were sent to people’s phones within 24 hours. By mid-March more than 270,000 people had been tested.”

Outside Korea, several European countries and US states have set a timetable for reopening entertainment and hospitality venues, although all still include some form of social distancing – Dutch proposals to allow venues a maximum of 30 people, including staff, provided they remain 1.5 metres apart, for example, have been dismissed as especially unworkable.

The Event Safety Alliance, which recently released a ‘reopening guide’ for entertainment venues, describes how some countries are “using contract tracing to enable health authorities to track who has been to an event or location if an outbreak flares up. They are then contacted and instructed to seek medical advice.”

Privacy advocates in Japan and South Korea have been critical of those countries’ use of emergency powers to snoop on citizens

This enables venues to reopen more safely, knowing that any outbreaks can be isolated and contained, though only South Korea and, to a lesser extent, Australia (which is tracking the virus using its COVIDsafe app), currently have the capability to do so, according to the guide. Additionally, “some societies are more tolerant of the perceived impact on personal liberty than others”, it warns.

Privacy advocates in Japan and South Korea have been critical of those countries’ use of emergency powers to snoop on citizens, according to the Japan Times, where virus carriers’ contacts are “aggressively traced” using tools like GPS tracking on smartphones, credit card records and CCTV. “People’s movements before they were diagnosed are published on websites and relayed via smartphone alerts to inform others whether they have crossed paths with a carrier,” the paper adds.

While Korea-style contact tracing could provide the answer to reopening venues safely – and when faced with a choice between privacy invading contact tracing and socially distanced shows with 30 people, the latter arguably looks more appealing – not everyone is convinced.

Germany – whose testing and tracking regime is the envy of much of Europe – has warned it could reimpose lockdown after a rise in Covid-19 cases last week. “We always have to be aware that we are still at the beginning of the pandemic,” said chancellor Angela Merkel, “and there’s still a long way in dealing with this virus in front of us.”


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