Covid passports will be trialled at sporting events as part of the government’s plans to increase attendance in time for Euro 2020 and the big sport summer.
Sportsmail understands that officials are working on a ‘Covid certification scheme’, which will be used in the second phase of testing events starting in late May or early June.
It will record whether a person has had a vaccine, the result of an antibody test to prove immunity, or the result of a Covid test to show they don’t have the virus.
Sports organizations, including the Football Association and the England and Wales Cricket Board, said earlier this month that achieving a capacity visit by the end of June was ‘credible’ if Covid passports were tested and introduced at sporting events.
Covid passports increase the chances of full halls for sporting events after June 21
The inclusion of passports in the second phase of testing events offers the exciting prospect of full houses later this summer.
England compete in football at the European Championship, compete against Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India in cricket, Silverstone will host a Formula 1 Grand Prix, not to mention Wimbledon, The Open Golf and Betfred Rugby League Challenge Cup Final.
Covid’s vaccination pilot program begins after working on an updated NHS Covid app, which will show a person’s coronavirus status.
And passports should secure entire stadiums for the start of the next Premier League, EFL and rugby seasons, provided the virus remains tightly controlled.
Major sports organizations including football, both rugby codes, motorsport, cricket and tennis wrote Prime Minister Boris Johnson and opposition party leaders on April 8 urging them to urgently agree to testing Covid passports to back the capacity crowds this summer to bring.
Their letter was titled, “Review of Sports Support Covid Certification (Testing and Vaccination) as a Credible Option to Enable Full Sites Starting June 21.”
Memories of Euro 96 have been revived with the return of crowds to Wembley for Euro 2020
And it said, ‘Looking ahead to June 21, we support the government’s ambition to ensure the full return of fans, without restrictions if possible.
“This will necessarily depend on the government’s agreement that it is safe to reduce or drop social distance requirements.”
It added: ‘We know that our stadiums can only be completely filled with an assurance process.
“This process should ensure that everyone has access to stadiums and should include arrangements that verify a negative Covid test or an antibody test or vaccination certification.”
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RESTRICTIONS FROM 17 MAY
According to the government’s roadmap to end the lockdown, more and more spectators are being admitted to events, provided that infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths from Covid remain low and vaccination rates high.
From 17 May, indoor venues may allow a maximum of 1000 spectators, or half their capacity if that number is lower.
For outdoor events, a maximum of 4,000 fans are allowed, or the capacity of half a hall (whichever number is lower).
However, the largest stadiums, with a capacity of over 16,000, such as Wembley and Premier League football fields, allow up to 10,000 fans, or a quarter of the capacity (whichever is lower).
As of June 21, it is hoped that all social distance requirements can be lifted.
Prime Minister Johnson is desperate to get stadiums back to full capacity and despite opposition to the scheme, Covid passports are increasingly seen in the government as the only way to do that for the foreseeable future.
Speaking at a press conference at No. 10 on Tuesday, Johnson said Covid passports could be used in ‘hard-to-open’ sectors such as theaters, sports stadiums and nightclubs.
What we’re looking at – what I think any responsible government would look at – is how we’re using people’s Covid status to open up those things that are very difficult, which turned out to be very difficult to open last year, ‘ he said.
On Monday, the Department of Health released ads for jobs in a potential Covid certification scheme, asking applicants to be ready to begin on May 4.
The Prime Minister has drawn up a roadmap for returning spectators to events. Up to 10,000 fans, or 25 percent of the stadium capacity, whichever is less, will be allowed from May 17.
Johnson has said he wants full houses from June 21 depending on the outcome of test events and as long as the spread of Covid is under control, vaccinations are progressing well, there are a limited number of serious illnesses and no new variants are spreading.
The first phase of the events research program, which began last weekend during the FA Cup semi-finals between Leicester City and Southampton at Wembley and the World Snooker Championships in Sheffield, is based on social distance and spectator testing for coronavirus.
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It will last until May 15, when Wembley will host the FA Cup final in front of 21,000 fans.
Premier League CEO Richard Masters says football will have lost £ 2 billion in matchday revenue and broadcast revenue since the start of the pandemic.
In an interview last month, Masters said the goal of football was to return to full stadiums by the start of next season.
The Premier League has signed a letter from all major British sports calling on politicians to support a major overhaul of Covid passports as one way to achieve that.
“A lot of water needs to pass under the bridge until that can happen, but that’s our goal,” Masters said in March. A return to full, vibrant stadiums, a return to normal Premier League.
‘We have to go through steps one to step four of the roadmap and look at the national picture and, together with the government, create the conditions for that to happen. We believe it is an achievable goal.
‘The vaccination program is the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s the thing that changes everything from being controlled by the virus to being controlled and returning to normalcy.
“If the vaccination program works the way the government wants it, it will result in the return of stadiums, theaters, cinemas and ticket-based events in general.”
Bill Bush, the Premier League’s executive director, however, warned that without Covid passports, there will be a limited, socially distant crowd, no out-of-town fans, and no food at matches.
The absence of Covid passports for that event came as a surprise, and as opposition parties and civil liberty groups expressed concern, it was thought the prime minister might have shown the plan the red card.
However, it now appears that the technology to support the test was not in place.
It is a sign of the government’s sense of urgency that the next second round of testing events is expected to use ‘Covid certification’ in paper form, while the NHS app is still in development.
All eyes will be on England in June and July, with seven games scheduled in Euro 2020 and there is the prospect of more if Ireland and Germany are unable to host their games due to Covid.
The football association has informed organizers, UEFA, that the stadium will accommodate 22,500 fans – 25 percent capacity – with the option of pulling up to 45,000 spectators – half full – for the semi-finals and final, which will take place in July. 11.
The country’s major sports organizations are desperate for fans to return to generate much-needed income after more than a year with almost no spectators.
In their letter to politicians, they argue that the passport should include both virus testing and immunity confirmation, and commit to a time-limited approach.
The letter addressed some of the concerns of politicians and was intended to highlight the potential benefits of a workable scheme, if it can be achieved.
Labor leader Sir Keir has expressed doubts about the use of Covid passports, describing the government plans as a ‘complete mess’, which his party cannot support ‘in their current form’.
Liberal Democrat Ed Davey has called the passports ‘Covid ID cards’ and has described them as ‘illiberal’ and ‘unworkable’.
The SNP’s Ian Blackford has said ‘based on the information available there is no proposal before us that SNP MPs could support’.
And some 40 Tory MPs have made it clear they are against domestic vaccine passports, warning that introducing controls into everyday life would create a two-tiered nation.
But despite the opposition, the prime minister, who previously expressed a desire to see a packed house at the Euro 2020 final, is continuing a pilot that could still generate a capacity crowd this summer.
England’s Summer of Sport
Main events after June 21 – the earliest date when all restrictions can be lifted:
June 11 – July 11: Football – Euro 2020 in various countries, including seven matches at Wembley
June 28 – July 11: Tennis – Wimbledon
June 29, July 1 and 4: Cricket – England – ODI’s Sri Lanka
July 8, 10 and 13: Cricket – England v Pakistan ODI’s
13: Athletics – Diamond League: Anniversary Games at London Stadium
July 15-18: Golf – The Open at Royal St George’s
July 16, 18 and 20: Cricket – England v Pakistan T20s
July 17: Rugby League – Challenge Cup final at Wembley
July 18: Formula 1 – Great Britain Grand Prix at Silverstone
Aug 4-Sept 14: Cricket – England v India five test series
Sept 27-Oct 1: Cricket – Bob Willis Trophy Final at Lord’s
October 3: Athletics – London Marathon
October 9: Rugby League – Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford