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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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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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