LONDON – The professional sports sector’s revenue has been affected dramatically over the last 12 months and as part of their rebuilding process these industries need support from governments to implement mass testing strategies that will protect spectators and the wider community from new variants, future outbreaks, and transmissions.
Twenty of Europe’s biggest football clubs lost more than €1bn in revenue over the past year as the game struggles with the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a study by the market analyst KPMG.
Tottenham Hotspur chairman, Daniel Levy said in a statement: “We are currently in the midst of one of the most challenging times ever experienced. The impact of the pandemic on our revenue is material and could not have come at a worse time.”
He added: “Clubs are entirely capable, similar to the experience in several other countries, of responsibly delivering outdoor events with social distancing, exemplary hygiene standards, qualified stewards, testing capabilities and diverse travel plans, operating in some of the most technologically advanced venues in the world.”
Following on from the UK Governments initiative on regular testing for those who cannot work from home, the sports industry needs more vocal support in order to to return. One of the key strategies of reopening of sports venues safely requires frequent rapid mass testing for spectators. By identifying cases of the virus, and preventing the spread of new variants, stadium staff, stewards and fans can ensure venues remain COVID-free, with tests returning a result in 20 minutes.
Stadiums and arenas are highly intimate social places and managing people and their security is an enormous challenge. This needs a massive government health message campaign to help the industry needs with management and support. These venues cannot function at below 20% capacity or below as they did for a brief spell in December.
These tests can facilitate the return of full capacities at stadiums, as a result of attendees receiving a theoretical “day pass” following a negative rapid test, as seen in a trial in France which used a music theatre to give audiences day pass security so they could attend an indoor show.
Other industries such as retail, airports, steel, and car manufacturing have saved tens of thousands of lost man hours per site and reported no transmission issues through adopting frequent rapid lateral flow testing. These included John Lewis, London Heathrow Airport, Tata Steel and Bentley.
The World Nano Foundation and pandemic experts say regular use of inexpensive mass lateral flow rapid antigen test kits is the way to beat COVID-19, its variants and future viruses.
As vaccination quickens for vulnerable members of society, the next prize is to get the world’s economies moving, with mass frequent testing as the key, using the mantra ‘test to suppress’, and as an early warning system to protect against new strains and future outbreaks.
These simple-to-manufacture rapid tests have shown a thousand-fold increase in the effectiveness and accuracy of testing with this technology. The kits can produce a positive result even when there are fewer antigens to the virus in the sample – vital for finding asymptomatic individuals and ‘super-spreaders’.
In what many believe was a game changer in preventing lockdowns across the world, in the UK, community and workplace lateral flow rapid test kits (LFTs) have been mobilised now for door-to-door delivery – the UK government has secured more than 400 million of these kits – for its “Test to Suppress” strategy as well as to address fears that the South African variant had broken out in areas of the country.
Many other countries and industries are now adopting this technology.
Innova Medical – the world’s largest manufacturer of rapid lateral flow antigen tests is ramping up to 50 million a day by the spring – has also confirmed that its COVID-19 product is effective in detecting variant strains such as the British (Kent), South African, and Brazilian variants, which appear more contagious than the earlier strains.
“As these dangerous strains show signs of increased transmissibility across communities, the global effort to eliminate COVID-19 requires frequent, comprehensive and equitable testing that can detect these emerging strains,” said Daniel Elliott, President and CEO of Innova Medical Group.
Elliot added that numerous studies have shown that rapid antigen tests are an important tool for identifying infectious people quickly and equitably, even when they may not have COVID-19 symptoms, in ways not possible with slower, more expensive, centralised lab-based tests.
Workplace and community rapid mass testing is already starting to take place to keep economies moving and the entertainment and sports industries are said to be looking at a ‘day pass’ testing approach using LFT kits, in the same way that temperature checks were made on people using restaurants and pubs between lockdowns.
World Health Organisation Special Envoy on COVID-19, David Nabarro, had already suggested this approach:
“We’ve seen it (rapid mass testing) used in many different locations, for example in trying to keep aircraft free of people who’ve got COVID or looking after major events.”
A UK Government initiative offering LFTs in workplaces – healthcare, education, and local authorities, with private companies such as Royal Mail, the DVLA and Tate & Lyle Sugars also adopting frequent rapid testing.
Oxford University researchers found the UK Government’s most sensitive LFTs detected 83-90% of all infectious cases of COVID-19 and, with the UK investing more than £1.5bn in these test kits so far.
Oxford’s Regius Professor of Medicine, Sir John Bell underlined the benefit of these tests removing infectious people from high-risk environments: “They’ve found 25,000 cases just in healthcare, which may have prevented tens of thousands of cases of the disease.”
The World Nano Foundation (WNF) promotes healthcare technology and predicts that mass testing is central to future pandemic protection.
The not-for-profit organisation’s Co-founder Paul Sheedy said: “Our research shows how healthcare diagnostics technology will shift dramatically to a more decentralised community early intervention model, against potential epidemics and pandemics.
“Our own COVIDlytics™ modelling shows that an intensive front line ‘Test to Suppress’ campaign using rapid test kits available to the individual will allow early detection and immediate isolation, reducing the need for lockdowns.
“And our simulation maps how consecutive daily tests for three days can rapidly identify and isolate infectious people. Weekly testing can then sustain a low infection rate even in a large population.
“A key point previously missed by some experts is that high quality rapid lateral flow tests are not for people who already think they have COVID-19; it’s about everyone else testing frequently to check they are not infectious.
“Rapid community testing is simpler, faster, cheaper, more effective and mobilises everyone to help themselves, their relatives, friends, and colleagues, to keep everyone safe.
“We have already seen the danger from not being on our guard against renewed viral threats. Spanish Flu struck in 1918, killing up to 50 million people in four waves, the last two being most deadly because public health warnings were not adhered to.”
This means that there will be a revolution in healthcare in the coming years. Healthcare investment is forecast to grow at a rate of nearly 50% a year towards a market set to be worth $1.333 trillion by 2027*. The acceleration highlights wide recognition that the world cannot afford the human and economic cost of another pandemic.
One international investment platform is a Pandemic Protection alternative investment fund operated by Vector Innovation Fund in Luxembourg focused on limiting the effect of long form Covid-19, insulating the world against the impact of future pandemics, whilst minimising any impact on the global economy and healthcare provision and preparedness.
The Vector Innovation Fund is a Reserved Alternative Investment Fund (RAIF) specialising in support for technology companies able to transform global markets, notably in global healthcare, sustainability and longevity. These transformational technologies come from the nanotechnology, biotech, AI and machine learning, medical devices, therapies and digital health sectors.