We’re now more than a year into the coronavirus pandemic.
Vaccinations are being delivered at pace across many countries, and we’re being promised life will soon return to some kind of normal.
But there’s one question everyone is still working to answer – how can we ease restrictions and let people work, travel and enjoy other activities without risking further outbreaks?
We know that vaccination alone isn’t enough to stamp out the disease. And there’s no conclusive research that vaccinated people don’t spread the virus. This means that now, more than ever, we need frequent testing.
Real-time data-enriched testing is the only way forward
Testing is the only way we’re going to be able to identify asymptomatic carriers of the virus, isolate them, and wipe out Covid-19 completely. And this only works if testing is quick and easy – with accurate results available as people wait to board planes or enter buildings.
Real-time results like this are the way we’ll manage to get back to work and play – without causing new spikes in infection.
And of course, when they’re generated digitally, these results can be stored and shared in the cloud – giving authorities the power to take immediate action.
For testing to become this effective, it has to be digital.
And it has to be on-the-spot. And it has to be in real time. In fact, any passport system that isn’t powered by real-time data capture and management is likely to fail.
The current analogue solutions are not fit for purpose
The Covid passport approaches currently being trialled are simply not fit for purpose. For example, on some international flights, passengers are asked to complete declaration forms stating that they don’t have Covid.
How would anyone know their Covid status if they don’t have symptoms? And even if someone isn’t feeling great, but decides to travel anyway – what’s to stop them with a system like this? A test is the only way to know for sure.
Some authorities are asking for a hard copy of a negative PCR test – however, this only shows that an individual didn’t have Covid at the time their sample was taken. And by the time they get the result, they may have been re-exposed to the disease.
The safest and most accurate way to test is in real-time with digitised lateral flow assays. You should be able to test as you enter an airport, for example, then store the results on a smartphone app, in a very similar way to a digital boarding pass. Meaningful, powerful and always up to date.
Digital on its own isn’t good enough. Real-time digital is the ticket
It’s possible, of course, for any authority to issue a digital pass to individuals who are deemed fit to travel or take part in activities. Israel’s Green Pass, for example, is issued to any citizen who’s had both vaccine doses.
But this isn’t quite the same as having a real-time test result linked to a pass. The Green Pass shows immunity. It doesn’t show if you’ve come into contact with the virus recently and have it on you right now.
This is the power of real-time digital testing and why it’s the only way we’ll eradicate Covid-19.
Who will use the system? Real-time Covid testing can power more than travel
Anywhere that people gather closely together could use real-time digital Covid testing to make their event, workplace or experience safer. The Tokyo Olympics and the European Football Championships, for example, could implement test-and-enter systems.
Bars, cinemas, gyms, restaurants, schools, places of worship, and many other venues could take this approach to safeguard their trade.
Organisers of major sporting events like the Tokyo Olympics and the European Football Championships, that were delayed an entire year, will want to have as many fans attending as safely as possible.
Travel companies are already taking action. P&O Cruises and British Airways recently said passengers must show evidence that they’ve had both doses of the coronavirus vaccine before they’re allowed to travel.
BA has called for digital health passes and is now planning to allow passengers to register their vaccination status on its app.
Vaccine-only passports won’t work
The issue with vaccine-only systems is that not everyone will get vaccinated – whether out of personal choice or for medical reasons – so we need a safe way for everyone to travel.
A better solution is to have a system that also includes test data. Several are being developed.
The EU recently unveiled plans for a ‘digital green certificate’ that would allow holders to travel within the 27 European Union countries. Importantly, this would combine three types of data ‘certificates’ – vaccination status, Covid-19 test results and recovery status.
IATA (the International Air Travel Association) is also working on a digital platform for passengers based on a smartphone app.
The IATA Travel Pass system, currently being trialled in Doha, allows both vaccination certificates and test results to be uploaded securely.
Another example is the Commons Pass, a system being developed by the Commons Project, a non-profit public trust.
This is currently in trials, and will give travellers a secure and verifiable way to document their Covid PCR test result or vaccination status.
Digital testing is easy to set up
If you’re thinking of introducing a ‘Covid pass’ system – for your school, workplace, restaurant or event – think real-time and digital. Digital testing is probably simpler than you might think. When you partner with an organisation like Bond (or one of our test providers), it can be as straightforward as registering with a platform and downloading an app.
It’s a positive move for customer experience too.
For the companies and organisations already developing such systems, like those we’ve mentioned above, partnering with digital providers is a stamp of credibility – and it shows you’re doing everything in your power to keep your space safe for customers and employees alike.
With our technology expertise, regulatory knowhow and passion for making things better with data, we’re the perfect partner for businesses developing travel passports or test-to-enter type systems.