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Spanish developers bring Covid-safe app to market

A new ticketing services operation based in Barcelona claims to be attracting interest from some of the world’s biggest live event companies, thanks to its ability to include health record details of fans as part of their pass to attend shows.

Barcelona-based TiketBlok says it has developed an app that makes it possible to identify everyone who attends a major event through their mobile phones. The app also allows event organisers to establish a communications channel with those attendees, as well as including identity and health certification within the ticket itself.

TiketBlok has already trialled its system successfully at a Manel concert on 21 May in Gerona, where 1,000 people gathered without social distancing after passing an antigen test. The company also says it has attracted the attention of Live Nation, the WiZink Center in Madrid and opera houses in Vienna.

“Our tool allows venues and event organisers to identify every single attendee, communicate with them and certify their identity and health status, says TiketBlok managing director Javier de Esteban, adding that for the Manel concert in Gerona’s Sala La Mirona venue, more than 5,000 notifications were sent to attendees via SMS, email or through the app itself.

TiketBlok trialled its system successfully at a concert with 1,000 people without social distancing

He continues, “Our app works as a ‘smart wallet’ so all attendees have to enter the venue with their own app: One phone, one ticket. This is how we identify the whole audience, and how we are able to communicate with them anytime in real time. We also include the identity certification through a biometric analysis of the attendee ID or passport and the health status.”

TiketBlok can integrate the AOKpass health certificate – a Covid-free certification project backed by the International Chamber of Commerce, International SOS and SGS Group – into its tickets. The company says it connects with official health certificate issuers to include on the ticket itself whether the ticket holder has passed a pre-event antigen test or has had a certified vaccination.

Company MD de Esteban adds, “The best part is that we are system agnostic. It doesn’t matter who sold the tickets, you can use TiketBlok to manage the tickets and the access.”

 


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Bigger concerts as pandemic ‘dies out’ in Israel

The Israeli government has signed off on plans to allow up to 10,000 people in the country’s largest outdoor venues, as a senior public health official said there is evidence Covid-19 is “dying out” in Israel following a successful vaccination drive.

As of today (8 April), seated events that do not serve food, including concerts and sporting events, may host up to 10,000 people outdoors and 4,000 inside. Non-seated events, and/or those where food is served, are restricted to 750 people, up from 500 at the time of writing.

Additionally, up to 100 people are now allowed to gather outside for private events, though the existing limit of 20 people indoors remains in place.

The new capacity limits will remain in place until 22 April, when they will be reviewed by Israel’s coronavirus cabinet.

“This allows us to open up the economy and give the green light for weddings, concerts and events”

All this is being made possible by Israel’s green pass programme, named for the documents issued to Israelis who have received both doses of Covid-19 vaccine, which has allowed concerts to restart where attendees can prove their vaccine status.

The new, looser limits apply only to those with green passes, though ministers have also eased restrictions for Israel’s Memorial Day (13–14 April), allowing families of the fallen who do not have the green pass to attend remembrance ceremonies.

Dr Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health services at the Ministry of Health, said earlier this week that a jump in the R number – the reproduction rate of the coronavirus – in Israel from 0.52 to 0.78 is no cause for concern. “The pandemic is dying out,” she explained, “albeit at a slower pace. But as long as it [the R number] is below one, there is no room for concern.”

“Most of the localities in Israel have low morbidity. Meanwhile, there are almost no significant virus concentrations and no hotspots at all,” she added. “This allows us to open up the economy and give the green light for weddings, concerts and events, as well as gradually opening up the education system.”

 


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Roqu CEO details health passport innovation

In summer 2020, Ireland-based Roqu Group launched Health Passport Worldwide (HPW), a secure platform that combines mobile technologies with official Covid-19 tests and vaccinations.

The technology has been engineered specifically to ‘help curtail the spread of Covid-19’ and is enabling the safe reopening of events, travel and sports in nine countries worldwide.

Now, Robert Quirke, president and CEO at Roqu, tells IQ how HPW is now working alongside leading international events producers, live music organisations and ticketing companies to create solutions that will reopen events this summer.

 


IQ: Who is able to use HPW?
RQ: The app is free to be used by the public and also by official healthcare providers. The system is multilingual. Depending on the model of the smartphone, font sizes can be increased and text-to-speech can be enabled. The overall technology platform is being used by event producers, the travel industry, pharmacies and many more. The dependents feature means that people with disabilities can make full use of the tech if they wish.

In which countries has HPW established a presence?
The technology is actively being used in the UK, Ireland, Portugal, South Africa, Canada, Bulgaria, Kenya, Nigeria and Ibiza.

Where has it been trialled so far?
Extensive system trials have already been performed in Ireland, the UK and South Africa at healthcare centres, pharmacies, nursing homes for staff vaccinations, schools (staff), offices and more. In December of last year, the system was successfully used at the trial live music event in Cape Town called Recharge2020, working alongside Ticketmaster, the city and local production companies.

“The system was successfully used at the trial live music event in Cape Town called Recharge2020, working alongside Ticketmaster”

Has HPW received the stamp of approval from any governments?
The organisation focuses on successful industry adoption across various sectors. Our approach is to not wait, but rather to immediately support industries that urgently need solutions. The technology is being closely observed by many governments with a view to supporting their vaccines deployment initiatives.

The digital passport market is becoming increasingly saturated. How does your product stand out?
This is not a concept, it is a living breathing solution, and has been since last summer. There is currently no other health passport solution that has achieved the level of support and adoption compared to HPW. Our solution is already being used by some of the world’s leading organisations. Every minute, someone somewhere in the world receives their Covid-19 test result safely via our technology.

How does the app keep users’ data secure and private?
The founders of the technology have put user privacy as a priority because unlike some other mobile technologies, the HPW app does not track people’s location, does not use Bluetooth, does not use GPS and does not monitor people’s usage of the system. Data is not shared with any third parties. This function does not even exist within the technology.

“The technology also integrates with public health systems, festivals, airports, test centres, event ticketing platforms”

Does the app work in harmony with existing healthcare and tech systems?
Yes, the system can integrate where necessary with labs, hospitals and existing public health platforms. A special function is included to support various doses of vaccinations. You can also book a test directly within the app, making everything as easy as possible for the user.

The technology also integrates with public health systems, festivals, airports, test centres, event ticketing platforms and more.

For what purposes do you see HPW being used?
Enabling efficiencies at testing and vaccination centres, international travel, major sporting and music events with very large crowds. This platform will absolutely not be used for everyday life, such as going out for dinner or to the pub!

How could HPW facilitate the return of live music?
The technology enables event producers to scan high volumes of people in a very short period of time, the same as scanning your event ticket at entry. The system gives guests and producers the reassurance that people entering the venue are at a very low or zero risk of transmitting Covid-19. The HPW team has extensive experience in testing and can support events not just with the technology, but also with the end-to-end efficient and safe process.

“The solution to safely test 65,000 people within eight hours is already being deployed into Europe”

Can HPW integrate with event ticketing platforms?
Yes, for example, an anonymous code could be shared. But the system will not share medical information or personal details.

Festivals admit tens of thousands of people over a relatively short amount of time. Is HPW capable of processing a high volume of testing onsite?
Yes, the solution to safely test 65,000 people within eight hours is already being deployed into Europe.

Will venues and festivals have to implement any kind of hardware in order to use HPW?
No

 


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Major markets set out plans for Covid-19 passports

Australia and Iceland have joined a number of other markets across the globe in announcing plans for digital health passports which will show citizens’ Covid-19 vaccination and test status.

Iceland recently became the first European country to issue and recognise Covid-19 vaccination certificates to enable international travel for those inoculated against Covid-19.

Since early in the pandemic, the country has required a minimum five-day quarantine for international arrivals and now those with documentation showing they have received a full course of Covid-19 vaccines will be able to skip quarantine.

“You Check’s identity first [digital health passport] has a lot of potential to help venues and promoters manage risk”

In Australia, ahead of the nationwide rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine, the government has announced that all vaccinations will be recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register, and certificates would then be available digitally via the Express Plus Medicare app or in hard copy through the vaccination provider or Services Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told ABC National Radio it is “highly likely” that such documentation will be needed for international travel into the country.

Meanwhile, UK music venues are set to trial a health passport pioneered by London-based start-up You Check to accelerate the nation’s return to live.

The trials – which have been set-up in conjunction with Music Venue Trust (MVT) – are scheduled to take place at London’s 100 Club (cap. 350) and Bristol’s Exchange (cap. 250) in March.

The digital health passport will allow venue door staff and ingress operations to verify an attendee’s name, age, ticket and test result in one place and “facilitate communication between promoters and their full audiences, beyond the primary ticket buyer”.

[This] digital health passport will allow venue door staff and ingress operations to verify an attendee’s name, age, ticket and test result

“You Check’s identity first solution has a lot of potential to help venues and promoters manage risk,” says MVT CEO, Mark Davyd.

“It has a fast and thorough authentication process which enables health information to be stored against portable digital identity and MVT is pleased to be working with You Check to explore how this technology might form part of a comprehensive process which enables us to reopen every venue safely and revive live.”

Other nations that have revealed plans to launch a digital coronavirus passport include Sweden (by the summer) and Denmark (in three to four months), while Poland has already started issuing the digital pass to its citizens.

Elsewhere in Europe, Spain’s foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez has said “vaccine certification is something we are going towards inevitably”; Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has called upon the European Commission to introduce a standardized coronavirus vaccination certificate to facilitate travel within the European Union bloc, and Portugal’s interior minister Eduardo Cabrita has said that a vaccine certification would be easier to manage than the current Covid-19 requirements.

 


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European markets seek clarity on festival season

Major European festival markets are urgently seeking clarity on the viability of this year’s summer season in a race against the clock.

In Switzerland, promoters’ association SMPA has released a statement, co-signed by 26 of the country’s festivals, calling for clarity on the conditions under which Swiss festivals can be held regularly and at full capacity without social distancing.

The appeal also relays three key requirements for the restart of Swiss festivals: a transparent strategy and uniform conditions for holding events safely, a continual review of measures to ensure they are proportionate to the risks posed, and an event cancellation fund that covers 100% of losses.

“2021 is not 2020, the statement reads. “There are better treatment options, testing options are constantly evolving, and vaccinations are ongoing. In combination with the expected lower case numbers in the summer months, this creates a different starting position for the summer of 2021. The task now is to find a strategy for summer 2021.”

“2021 is not 2020. There are better treatment options, testing options are constantly evolving, and vaccinations are ongoing”

The statement has been co-signed by festivals including OpenAir St Gallen (cap. 30,000), which is part of the majority CTS Eventim-owned wepromote, SummerDays (12,000), and Seaside Festival (10,000) – all of which were cancelled last year after the Swiss government outlawed live events until the end of summer 2020.

In Denmark, festival organisers have been given a glimmer of hope after the government announced the spring arrival of a vaccine passport, but are still seeking the security needed in order to plan for the summer.

Acting minister of finance, Morten Bødskov, announced in a press conference on Wednesday (3 February) that digital Coronavirus passports will be ready for use in three to four months but will initially apply only to travel.

According to Bødskov, whether the digital passport can be used to go to a concert or a festival is a political discussion that will be decided by the infection situation.

The Danish live industry is cautiously optimistic about the news and have called for a roadmap for reopening to allow organisers to plan for the summer.

“[The vaccine passport] can be crucial in ensuring that we can quickly reopen venues and hold festivals this summer”

“The corona passport is an important tool that can be crucial in reopening the live industry,” says Esben Marcher, head of Dansk Live. “It is positive that a digital corona passport is now being established. It can be crucial in ensuring that we can quickly reopen venues and hold festivals when the summer comes.”

“Time is, of course, a significant challenge right now, and in organiser optics, three to four months is a very long time. The infection is currently fairly under control and the vaccine plan is being rolled out. Therefore, it should now be time to reconsider the plan for reopening. It will allow the country’s many organisers to plan for the future. ”

Danish festivals organisers say the ongoing uncertainty about whether the festival summer is to go ahead is keeping them in a stalemate situation.

“There are quite a few deals we do not close so as not to commit too much financially. Otherwise, we can have problems if the health authorities believe that we can not hold the festival,” Nicklas Lundorf, Langelandsfestival told Berlingske.

Lundorf revealed that the organisers are still planning to hold the festival until told otherwise.

“When are we going to throw ourselves in at the last minute and close the agreements that are crucial?”

“It’s something we go and discuss internally. When do we have a cut-off date? When are we going to throw ourselves in at the last minute and close the agreements that are crucial in order to get the festival off the ground?” he says.

Vaccine passports have been gaining traction across Europe, with Poland becoming the latest concert market to confirm it will issue its citizens with a vaccine passport when they have been immunised against Covid-19.

Elsewhere in Europe, Portugal is examining whether ‘safe bubbles’ of vaccinated festivalgoers could be the key to keeping fans and artists safe this summer, French festival operators ‘have 11 days to save festivals’, and the UK festival sector is waiting with bated breath for the prime minister to reveal a roadmap on the 22 February.

The lessons that can be learned from 2020’s lost festival summer will be discussed at ILMC during Festival Forum: Reboot & Reset, while leading festivals operators will be discussing the evolving passions, priorities and unique features of their events in Festival Futures: Core Priorities.

 


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Ticketmaster clarifies confusion around digital health pass

Live Nation-owned ticketing giant Ticketmaster has addressed confusion around reported plans to check fans’ vaccine or test status for concerts.

Following early results shared on Monday of the world’s first effective coronavirus vaccine which could prevent more than 90% of people from getting Covid, the ticketing platform is exploring the potential of syncing with third-party healthcare providers to link covid vaccine status and/or test results to fans’ digital tickets.

However, the company has clarified that there is “absolutely no requirement from Ticketmaster mandating vaccines/testing for future events” and that it “does not have the power” to set policies around such safety/entry requirements – which are up to the discretion of the event organiser.

Should the company progress with plans for a digital health pass, all health information would legally have to be stored with a 3rd party health care provider with HIPAA compliance, not with Ticketmaster.

“We imagine there will be many third-party health care providers handling vetting – whether that is getting a vaccine, taking a test, or other methods of review and approval – which could then be linked via a digital ticket so everyone entering the event is verified,” says Ticketmaster president Mark Yovich.

“Ticketmaster’s goal is to provide enough flexibility and options that venues and fans have multiple paths to return to events, and is working to create integrations to our API and leading digital ticketing technology as we will look to tap into the top solutions based on what’s green-lit by officials and desired by clients.”

“We imagine there will be many third-party health care providers handling vetting which could then be linked via a digital ticket”

While Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino recently said in the company’s Q3 earnings call: “We are working on a roadmap to get back to live safely. We are encouraged by progress on testing technology treatments and vaccines which will help us build our plans.”

Meanwhile, the ticketing giant has been developing SmartEvent, a new suite of technology to help event organisers adapt to Covid-19 protocols and safely welcome fans back to events.

While Ticketmaster says it’s merely exploring the idea of a digital health passport of sorts, the UK’s Premier League is close to agreeing a blueprint with the government for a similar premise, according to The Telegraph.

Chief executive Richard Masters has apparently told Whitehall the league wants to be at the forefront of a road map for sports, concert halls and festivals and has repeatedly suggested digital passports.

The UK has already ordered 40 million doses – enough to vaccinate up to 20 million people as each person will need two doses for it to work effectively.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, earlier this week, health secretary Matt Hancock said it is “absolutely a possibility” that the vaccine would become available before Christmas but he expects a mass roll-out “in the first part of next year”.

 


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