COVID-19 Passport: Enabling Safe Return of In-person Trade Show Attendance

May 11, 2021

Arvind Kothandaraman

Arvind Kothandaraman is the general manager of specialty diagnostics at PerkinElmer. His primary interest is in equipping clinical laboratories with the tools needed to meet their technical and operational goals. Prior to PerkinElmer, he held positions at Thermo Fisher Scientific, BioReference Laboratories and Advanced Analytical Technologies.

Most trade shows across the world have been canceled or converted to virtual events because of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, the worldwide exhibition industry contracted by 68% in 2020 and 2.4 million full-time jobs were affected. There is cause for concern that this trend will continue in 2021. However, with vaccinations slowing the tide of the pandemic, companies are beginning to wonder when in-person trade shows will begin again. And when they do return, will anyone attend?  

Show organizers will need to ensure the safety of their attendees to attract people and the industries they support to in-person events. This is where the COVID-19 passport comes into play. A COVID-19 passport can be tailored to meet the needs of trade shows and can be modified to meet national or regional restrictions. COVID-19 passports are designed to greatly reduce the likelihood of an outbreak occurring at an event and give attendees confidence that it is safe for them to attend the tradeshow in person again.  

What is a COVID-19 Passport?

A COVID-19 passport is a tool that can give organizers an elegant way to safeguard their event. Implementing such a concept allows the venue to scan attendees, vendors and employees quickly and easily before they gain entrance to an event, and ensure they have a recent and valid negative COVID-19 test result and/or are fully vaccinated, for example. An ideal COVID-19 passport solution should take the following critical factors into consideration: 

The Assay Used to Screen

The test being used should be validated for COVID-19 screening of asymptomatic individuals. While most assays are authorized for diagnostic testing when symptoms are present or when a person has a high chance of having been exposed to an infected person, very few tests are validated for screening. Screening is testing of individuals who are not showing any symptoms and are not suspected of being infected with COVID-19, which requires a highly sensitive RT-PCR test.

Test Timing Window 

This will depend upon many factors including the length of your trade show, the region your attendees are coming from and where you are holding the trade show. For international travelers, the U.S. Department of State requires all air passengers two years of age and over to present a negative COVID-19 test, taken within three calendar days of departure for entry into the U.S. No such regulation exists for interstate travel today. Depending on the length of the trade show, a test is recommended prior to initial entry and additional testing during the event may be recommended for longer events. Individual states may have more stringent regulations, which may be taken into consideration when deciding on a venue for your trade show.

User Interface 

Any COVID-19 passport you choose needs to incorporate an adaptable, easy-to-use, secure software solution. Because patient data is involved, it needs to be HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and/or GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) compliant depending on the location of your trade show. To ensure the security of your attendees’ data, the solution should also be encrypted. Test results should be transmitted to a private wallet, which allows the creation of entry passes without revealing any personal health information.

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