A new screening app recently launched in South Africa will aim to enable businesses, events, travel, and the hospitality industries to safely reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Health Passport Worldwide system combines secure mobile technology with official COVID-19 tests and vaccinations to provide users with quick and easy access to results and certified documents.
These can then be used by officials at events or security personnel to determine whether a person presents a low or high risk of COVID-19 transmission and should be permitted access to particular buildings or locations.
Founder of Health Passport Worldwide Robert Quirke stated that the Health Passport could help alleviate the devastation inflicted on the tourism industry in South Africa due to COVID-19.
“You can imagine that overnight a global tourism industry closed down. Airports – like Cape Town International that sees 11 million passengers a year – shut down, and with a 90% drop in international traffic,” Quirke said.
“This coupled with jobs losses that left families with no hope on the horizon for over a year, has spurred the need to get life back on track again.”
How it works
Health Passport said that the overall platform only works with tests and vaccinations which are administered by medical professionals.
They can then update your vaccination or test status on the Health Passport system.
Upon your consent, the healthcare facility will update your Health Passport Worldwide account for you to reflect COVID-19 related information.
This will give you immediate access to your personal COVID-19 status, which can choose to display or scan whenever appropriate.
The founders of Health Passport have claimed they put user privacy at the forefront of the solution, and as such, the app does not do any of the following:
- Track the user’s location.
- Use Bluetooth.
- Use GPS.
- Monitor people’s usage of the system.
- Share data with third parties.
Cape Town testing centre and pilot
As part of its rollout in the country, the Health Passport Worldwide has opened a flagship testing centre at The Lookout Waterfront in Cape Town.
This facility provides both PCR and Rapid Antigen tests, with an advanced setup capable of testing 275 people easily every hour.
As demand increases, this can be scaled up overnight to 550 people per hour. Rapid Antigen tests are available within 15 minutes, while turnaround time for the PCR will be 24 hours.
These test results can be accessed through the Health Passport app on a smartphone and presented during entry to festivals or events.
The system was already trialled in South Africa in December 2020 at a live music event called Recharge 2020.
Ahead of the event, all attendees including staff and performers downloaded the mobile app. On the day, everyone was tested using the latest rapid antigen tests that are already validated for use in South Africa.
They were then safely scanned into the event to provide the lowest levels of risk possible.
Below are images from the event, which was attendant by Olympic 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk.
A boost for events
Big Concerts CEO Justin van Wyk said the event was an important moment for the industry which has been devastated by the pandemic.
“Using the Health Passport Worldwide platform allowed this event to proceed with the highest levels of risk mitigation, demonstrating the way forward for live events globally,”
Quirke said that the technology could allow events such as the British & Irish Lions rugby tour to proceed safely, with testing right near the Greenpoint stadium included.
“We are working with the highest levels of authorities and government bodies to try to make it happen for the country,” Quirke said.
The idea of a digital pass system to confirm the health status of individuals has been floated in recent weeks.
A more controversial version proposed by the EU seeks to regulate access for travellers and tourists in Europe based on whether a person has taken a vaccine.
This comes despite the WHO explicitly stating that it was against a vaccine passport.