Sporting events that trialled the use of Covid test ‘passports’ to allow fans into stadiums saw no ‘significant increased transmission’ of the virus, an industry chief has said.
Bill Bush, executive director of the Premier League shared early findings of the Government’s Events Research Programme events, which included FA Cup matches and the World Snooker Championship, for the first time with a committee of MPs yesterday (MON).
He said: “The report’s yet to be published, but what we hear so far, is that in the present level of prevalence, sporting events – the more outdoor events at least, and I think it’s also true of the indoor events – there’s no significant increased transmission risk from the attendances that have taken place.
But he said testing attendees had been “a real burden” and “a pain in the neck”.
He suggested a ‘vaccine passport’ would remove the need for testing and would reduce the burden on venues.
He added: “Covid certification would ease the current pressure as indicated by the Events Research Programme, if it included vaccination evidence – but nevertheless represents a burden and it’s only worth it if the alternative is going back to social distancing.”
Meanwhile, a hospitality industry chief warned any delays to relaxing Covid restrictions could put hundreds of pubs in jeopardy.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub association said the introduction of vaccine passports or testing passports to access bars and restaurants would hit revenues in the sector by 25%, because it makes people less likely to make ‘spontaneous’ visits to venues.
And any delay to scrapping social distancing measures beyond 21 June would prevent the struggling hospitality industry from starting its recovery.
“To put it really simply our businesses will not start their journey to recovery until all the restrictions are removed,” she said – adding that 87 million pints had been “literally thrown down the drain” during the previous lockdowns.
“So the 21 June has to be the date that all restrictions fall away. It limits our capacity and so any lingering restrictions really put at risk and in jeopardy the future of many pubs, but also our brewers.”
But the plea came as health experts warned indoor venues with poor ventilation, and where people spent long periods of time, increased the risk of spreading the disease.
And a Government vaccine expert warned 80% of the UK would now have to have Covid-19 antibodies to achieve ‘herd immunity’ after the arrival of variants from overseas.
Professor Peter Openshaw of Imperial College London told MPs it had originally been thought the spread of the disease would slow down when around 60% of the population were either vaccinated or had antibodies from having previously had the virus.
But he said the introduction of new strains which are more transmissible, such as the India variant, meant more people would have to have immunity for it to slow the virus down.
And Professor Judith Brewer, Director of Infection and Immunity at University College London, warned ‘herd immunity’ would be near impossible while border rules still allowed new strains in to the country.
“You’re not ever going to reach herd immunity, unless you prevent variants coming in to the country,” she told the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC).
“Herd immunity is a nice concept but it’s going to be a long time before we can see it for public health planning purposes.”