Government considers vaccine passport and lateral flow test pilots for sports crowds squib
Vaccine passports for stadiums have been revived by Government as part of a three-pronged strategy to ramp up crowd numbers for the great summer of sport. Lancashire Cricket Club and at least one Premier League team have already expressed interest in April pilots, in which the innovations will be road-tested. As well as digital Covid-19 record checks for spectators, ministers are keen to explore 30-minute lateral flow tests outside venues as well as home testing kits. Liverpool University research is also understood to be feeding into ministers' "Scientific Events Research Programme" ahead of rules being relaxed. The hope is that sports will use the scheduled May 17 return of 10,000 fans as just a stepping stone towards rapidly increasing numbers beyond June 21. Lockdown roadmap month-by-month: How Boris Johnson's plan to ease restrictions could play out Sport has welcomed the Government's decision to revisit vaccine passports, having previously opposed the technology due to the potential impact on civil liberties. Ministers' roadmap details how experts will now consider "Covid status certification".... "using testing or vaccination data to confirm in different settings that people have a lower risk of transmitting Covid-19 to others". Daniel Gidney, Lancashire's chief executive, said ministers were right to be reconsidering the technology. "However difficult that is, in terms of return of crowds, it should be considered part of the talk," he added. "It’s not a silver bullet but it’s something that should be considered." Involvement of England's top tier in the pilots could also help ease concerns over the sporting integrity of giving one-off home advantage on the final day of the season. Premier League clubs will vote on whether to have fans back on May 23 because the competition is keen to ensure away teams do not feel they are at an unfair disadvantage. One option would be for Government to offer the likes of relegation-threatened Newcastle, due to play away at fellow strugglers Fulham, a chance to have home fans in April as part of the pilots. The roadmap announced on Monday allows for the prospect of crowd numbers being scaled up dramatically beyond 10,000 by the time England play Czech Republic in their final Euro 2020 group match on June 22. Whitehall sources and public health experts played down the likelihood of 90,000 being inside Wembley by then, but Lancashire announced they were hoping to have a full Old Trafford for the T20 Blast against Worcestershire on July 1.