ATC210514: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Tourism on Oversight Visit at the Waterfront Coronavirus Rapid Testing Centre (Lookout Testing Centre), Cape Town in Western Cape Province, Dated 11 May 2021
REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON TOURISM ON OVERSIGHT VISIT AT THE WATERFRONT CORONAVIRUS RAPID TESTING CENTRE (LOOKOUT TESTING CENTRE), CAPE TOWN IN WESTERN CAPE PROVINCE, DATED 11 MAY 2021
The Portfolio Committee on Tourism, having undertaken an oversight visit to Covid-19 Rapid Testing Centre at Waterfront, City of Cape Town on 16 March 2021, reports as follows:
The Committee sought approval from Parliament to visit the Covid-19 Rapid Testing Centre at the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town to experience what was reported to the Committee by the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA).
The Committee met with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa on Tuesday, 23 February 2021. The purpose of the meeting was to engage the TBCSA on pressing and concerning matters in the ongoing developments of the COVID-19 impact on Travel and Tourism. The meeting agreed that the industry was in crisis, but the outlook was better. With the second wave the outlook seemed to be worse. Initially the season looked reasonable for domestic leisure, especially for out of city destinations. The TBCSA indicated that with reduced tourism activities affected the entire local economies. Ordinarily 76 percent of domestic spend is on food and beverages, shopping and recreation. While only 24 percent of spend was on accommodation. The entire economies of the cities, towns and rural areas which depend on the year-end holiday season were badly affected. The foreign tourists made it worse because they were not interested in a holiday if they cannot enjoy the alcohol. The meeting acknowledged that domestic tourism is subdued due to:
- Domestic corporate travel in terms of lower levels of corporate activity resultant in reduced travel budgets to contain costs; and
- Domestic leisure travel in terms of less discretionary income for travel and leisure as far more people are unemployed or are on significantly reduced salaries.
The meeting agreed that there is need for TBCSA, Department of Tourism and the Portfolio Committee on Tourism to support all efforts to create jobs in order to end unemployment in South Africa. The Committee has identified a number of issues that hamper tourism growth and believe that joint efforts at various levels of government could unlock those challenges for the benefit of the people. As part of creating awareness, the Committee must visit the Rapid Testing Centre at V&A Waterfront to experience this exercise to create confidence in the sector.
Subsequently, on the 16th March 2020 the Committee visited HPSA to view the Rapid COVID-19 Testing Centre. The secure system combines testing and vaccinations with the latest digital technology to provide an efficient health passport system which can be integrated with existing travel, health and event systems. HPSA has developed the process to accommodate high volume on-site testing of over 65 000 people within eight hours and works with all official Covid-19 test types including the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and rapid antigen tests. The committee heard that the system quickly integrates with public health systems, venues, airports, test centres, and event ticketing platforms for conferences, concerts, cultural and sporting events. This type of testing and health passport system can immediately help to reopen the travel, tourism, events and the hospitality industry, thus protecting business, the economy and society.
If a person tests and is not vaccinated, the person’s test status automatically expires after an agreed period, such as 72 hours. The committee heard that travellers can upload their official Passenger Locator Forms to the Travel wallet section within the Health Passport Worldwide app which allows for details such as the flight booking number and passport number which can be automatically linked to airlines, notifying them that a passenger’s documents are in order and the passenger is fit to fly. The committee heard that this system is currently being rolled out to business and that funding is required to make it accessible to the public due to the high cost of testing and vaccination kits which prohibits HPSA from making their service available
- Objectives of trip
The tourism figures were staggering before COVID-19, albeit a reported decline. In 2019, the international tourist arrivals worldwide grew by 4 percent, reaching 1.5 billion. In the same year, South Africa welcomed 10.2 million tourists. This translated to R81.9 billion total foreign direct spend. In 2018, South Africa contributed 1.5 million jobs and R425.8 billion to the economy, which represents 8.6 percent of all economic activity in the country. This makes South Africa the largest tourism economy in Africa. The employment impact was the 1.5 million in total direct and indirect tourism jobs, which account for 9.2 percent of total employment in the country. However, since the advent of COVID-19, there is a paradigm shift from a focus on international tourism towards domestic tourism. There is consensus among global, regional and national tourism players that domestic tourism will be the driver of the recovery of the sector. The paradigm shift is supported by 28.2 million overnight domestic trips taken in South Africa for the period April 2019 to February 2020. The business events sector has been the hardest hit, with the sector remaining literally closed as restriction still impact hosting of events.
The Committee, having met with a number of stakeholders, and the Tourism Business Council of South Africa in particular, deemed it necessary to conduct an oversight visit to ascertain how can government expedite the reopening of the business events. The objectives specific objectives of the oversight visits were to:
- Inspect the Health Passport Worldwide facility at the Waterfront in Cape Town to get an insight into how the health passport system works.
- Explore ways in which the government can be spurred on to develop interventions aimed at immediately reopening the business tourism and sporting events that boost domestic tourism.
- Explore possible collaborations between the government and the private sector in facilitating reopening business tourism.
Before the advent of COVID-19 the Committee was urging the National Conventions Bureau to ensure that the business events are geographically spread throughout the country. The Committee was of the view that smaller business events could be hosted in areas that were traditionally excluded from such opportunities. The oversight visit, therefore, was also meant to explore ways to reignite business tourisms for the benefit of the Villages, Townships and Small Towns (Dorpies).
- Committee delegation
Although the House Chairperson approved the Committee to undertake the oversight trip, Hon. Xego, Hon. Khalipha and Hon. Moteka submitted their apologies. The delegation comprised of the following members and support staff.
Composition of delegation:
Hon. SOR Mahumapelo (Chairperson)
Hon. LS Makhubela-Mashele
Hon. MM Gomba
Hon. P Mpushe
Hon. M de Freitas
Hon. HS Gumbi
Hon. H Winkler*
Hon. KP Sithole
Support staff - Parliament:
Mr. JM Boltina, Committee Secretary
Dr. PS Khuzwayo, Content Advisor
Ms. S Loni, Committee Researcher
Ms. N Mnyovu, Committee Assistant
Ms. S Govender, Communications Officer
Support staff - Department of Tourism:
Mr. P Masemola, PLO Minister’s Office
Mr. V Gule, Assistant PLO Minister’s Office
Ms. L Theko, PLO Deputy Minister’s Office
Ms. P van Niekerk, PLO Director General’s Office
- Committee oversight work at the Covid-19 Rapid Testing Centre
Mr. Justin van Wyk, Chief Executive Officer of Big Concerts and partner from Health Passport South Africa (HPSA) briefed the Committee at the Testing Centre as follows:
- Health Passport Worldwide
The Committee was informed that with Health Passport Worldwide, ROQU has now provided an immediate solution to help sports, events, and international travel to safely return to operations. The solution combines efficient testing, vaccinations and real-time mobile technologies, and is now available in South Africa.The secure system combines testing and vaccinations with the latest digital technology to provide an efficient Health Passport system. People have immediate access to their personal Covid-19 status, which can be digitally scanned for integration with existing travel, health & event systems. The system is built specifically to work with all official Covid-19 vaccinations and test types.
The solution quickly integrates with public health systems, venues, airports, test centres, event ticketing platforms and others. Immediately helping to re-open travel; tourism; events; and hospitality industries to protect businesses and society.
- Vaccine and Testing Tech
Health Passport Worldwide works with all official Covid-19 test types including PCR and rapid antigen tests. In the case where onsite high volume testing is required, the process has been developed to test over 65 000 people within 8 hours.The Health Passport Worldwide operational team has already administered more onsite rapid antigen tests in a single day than any other organization in South Africa. Because of this, a highly efficient process has been developed to combine testing with the latest digital technologies.
- Medical Hub
Before a person attends an event or travels, each person is tested or vaccinated by a medical professional. An authorised healthcare administrator updates the Health Passport Medical Hub. This process happens in real-time with results and documents immediately available within the Health Passport Worldwide App. This can also be automated through integration with public health.
The person cannot manually change their Covid-19 status. Their current status is directly linked in real-time to their most recent vaccination. If not yet vaccinated, the person’s test status automatically expires after an agreed period, such as 72 hours.
- Roche Rapid Antigen Test
The Roche Rapid Antigen Test reliably triages people suspected of SARS-CoV-2, with results ready in 15 minutes. The test accurately screens individuals with exposure to infected SARS-CoV-2 or a high risk environment, providing fast answers regarding their infection status
The test has a sensitivity of 96.52 percent and a specificity of 99.68 percent. Affordable machine-free testing kits enable convenient use for healthcare professionals at different point of care locations. Point of care testing increases access to high quality diagnostics solutions, regardless of laboratory testing infrastructure or patient mobility.
The medical professional uploads the official test documents, which are immediately available within the app. This is also automated. In the case of a rapid test, a photo of the test cassette can also be uploaded to the user’s account. For international passengers, the travel cert can be uploaded to their app, providing easy access to all essential documents.
- Air Travel
Travellers can upload their official passenger locator forms to the Travel Wallet section within the Health Passport Worldwide App. Each person has the ability to upload multiple forms for a journey, for example for staff or family. The forms will be associated with the Flight Booking Number and passport number. The airline can be automatically notified that all documents are in order and the passenger is fit to fly.
- Close Contacts
A person can enter the email addresses of their contacts, friends or staff into a saved list. After being tested, if needed the person can simply click a button and this will automatically send a pre-defined email to their contacts to notify of the person’s most recent test or vaccination. The content of the email changes depending on the result of their test, and will include any necessary action that should be taken.
Fully localised language versions of the Health Passport Worldwide App are made available. A person selects their language upon accounts setup, and can later change their language if desired. The medical administrator portal is also multilingual, with a drop-down menu to select the preferred interface language.
- Health Passport Scanner
The Health Passport Scanner is engineered to enable airports, stadiums, arenas, conference centres, and other venues to safely reopen immediately. It does not require any hardware or integration. The platform allows for immediate scalability with a daily throughput of hundreds of millions of fans.
The technology works with a real-time connection to the medical hub, delivering an immediate result to the local infrastructure or security. Data Privacy and GDPR compliancy is positioned at the heart of the solution. A full Data Protection Impact Assessment has been completed.
Health Passport Scanner is already in use at multiple locations, including access control to events and medical facilities. The apps are published. The scanner will be used to ensure all fans entering the stadium had a negative test.
The solution was also implemented at a pioneering event project in City of Cape Town. The project is deployed to create a solution to safely reopen international tourism and events in 2021. The technology has already been selected as the platform to reopen international festivals at the Algarve, Portugal in 2021.
- Recharge 2020
Working with Health Passport Worldwide, the RECHARGE 2020 live event took place on 21 December in Cape Town, at the Grand Café & Beach venue, with multiple live acts and DJs. The project was a great success and represents an important stepping-stone towards the reopening of sports, entertainment and culture.
- The online booking engine - www.EASYTESTING.co.za
The online test booking engine consolidates all available test centres in an area, making it very easy for a person to book his / her test wherever they want, whenever they want.A person can quickly select the type test or vaccine that is required. A map shows where their nearest healthcare facility is which is providing the test or vaccine. Service is booked and can be linked unique identifier such as ID number or passport, or other specific data. A person can access their booking and quickly reschedule if needed.
The platform has also been tailored to cater for public vaccinations scheduling. Capacity for hundreds of millions of users. Local version to be created.
- Everyone is tested before an event
The purchases a ticket. Person uses EasyTesting.co.za website to quickly locate their nearest testing facility. The test is booked online. Person attends testing area and completes consent form. Covid-19 symptoms assessed. Test performed by a medical professional a maximum of 72 hours before the event.
Patient is notified by an email or phone call. Referred to General Practitioner. A PCR swab sample can be taken immediately on the spot if desired. Person is instructed to self-isolate, follow national guidelines. Refuse entry at events. The persons result and test documents are automatically available in their Health Passport Worldwide app. If already vaccinated, this status is available within the app.
- Centre inspection / walk about by the Committee
The Committee was taken through on a practical step-by-step process of the rapid testing at airport / soccer stadium or any entertainment event:
- Example: Onsite Airport Rapid Testing
The quantity of passengers who require testing is made available to onsite team. Passengers encouraged to download HPE app before arriving at the airport. Passengers, before arriving at the airport, are informed that a rapid test is required for travel. They are directed to a test area. Signage is visible at the airport.
Step 1 - Passenger attends testing area and completes consent form. Covid-19 symptoms assessed.
Step 2 - ID is confirmed.
Step 3 - Payment processed if needed.
Step4 - Antigen test is performed. Sample is prepared to manufacturer’s highest quality standards.
The passenger testing process ranges from 3.5 to 5 minutes depending on mobility. Antigen test results and documents are delivered in 15 minutes.
- Antigen Detected
- A passenger is contacted directly by a doctor with personal instructions of the next actions in line with national public health guidelines.
- A passenger’s app is updated and test documents are provided, confirming positive detection.
- Airport security will deny access to departures and aircraft.
- Update App with result.
- The test documents are provided. Electronic and hard copy are issued to a passenger.
- A passenger proceeds to security. The airport staff may use Health Passport Scanner for efficiency.
- Committee deliberations
The Committee appreciated the presentation and inputs from the Chief Executive Officer and the following issues were added for consideration:
- The work on the rapid testing system needs to decentralised to where people are located.
- There is a need to establish whether the technology could assist with the track and trace, and be able to ascertain where the ticket was bought by someone who was tested.
- There is a need to invest in mobile testing capability.
- There is a need for formal engagement between the private sector and the government to deal with cost mitigation.
- Committee observations
The Committee made a number of observations as follows:
- Impact of the Adjusted-Risk-Strategy on the MICE sector
The Committee has observed that the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions (MICE) industry is the fastest growing tourism sector globally and in South Africa. The MICE sector is pivotal in generating foreign exchange as it also increases trade and investments among countries, creates job opportunities, contributes to the GDP and boosts local economy of destinations where meetings are held.However, the potential contribution of the MICE sector to the economy has been seriously impacted by COVID-19. Before COVID-19, South Africa continued to gain popularity as an international business events destination. However, the pandemic has eroded the MICE gains previously made by South Africa. Before the onset of the pandemic, the International Congress and Convention Associations (ICCA) had declared South Africa as Africa’s leading business destination. South Africa may lose this status if the sector remains closed.
- The value of business events in South Africa
The latest information at the disposal of the Committee is that South Africa had a target of hosting 168 international business events during the 2019/2020 financial year with 90,300 international delegates. South African Tourism reported that the country hosted 230 international meetings and conferences which attracted 100,019 delegates segmented as 17 percent medical, 14 percent government and public services, 9 percent technology, 9 percent financial services, 8 percent commerce, 6 percent environmental and 5 percent tourism business events. It was also reported that South Africa improved its global ranking on the International Congress and Convention Association’s (ICCA) 2019 Ranking from 39 in 2018 to 38 in 2019.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa was still ranked as the number one association congress destination in Africa and the Middle East, with Cape Town ranked as a top convention city in this region.In their 2019/20 Annual report, South African Tourism also reported to the Committee that the estimated value of events that could potentially be brought to South Africa in that financial year could yield R1,375,982,378 returns, with R5,285,548,884 in three years. This potential contribution of the MICE sector has been eroded by the limited numbers of delegates that could be hosted at venues under the provisions of the current COVID-19 Risk-Adjusted-Strategy.
- The new normal for the MICE sector
The Committee is of the view that the MICE sector will change drastically as a result of COVID-19. Signs of the new forms of business events are emerging as the hybrid meetings with virtual and physical elements are being convened. This new normal is presenting a new business model for the MICE sector and calls for speedy adaptation methods by the MICE sector in South Africa. The Committee is of the view that a key success factor to the resuscitation of the MICE sector in South Africa depends on the deliberate collaboration amongst the travel, hospitality, and tourism services that play a role in the MICE sector. This collaboration is critical as the Committee acknowledges that the pandemic has disrupted the value chain amongst a myriad of critical stakeholders that include event organizers, venue suppliers, sponsors, host destinations and many other suppliers. The Committee, therefore, asserts that the COVID-19 pandemic will impel event business stakeholders to adopt a new way of doing business. Given the dictates of the prevailing operational environment, the Committee contends that COVID-19 has pressed a reset button for the MICE sector in South Africa. This, therefore calls for new and innovative ways by both the South African National Conventions Bureau (SANCB) and the MICE business sector to invest in new information and communication technologies (ICT) infrastructure and customise venues to be ready for the new normal in planning and hosting business events.
- The emergence and significance of health passports
The Committee has noted the emergence of health passports which may become a panacea for reopening international travel. The Committee has noted that these health passports take a form of digital platforms that contain the travellers’ information in relation to their exposure to the COVID-19 virus, vaccination status and other related information. This will become a vital information to facilitate international travel and allowing people to go back to work or even accessing public spaces such as restaurants, stadiums, recreational facilities and tourism facilities.
The Committee also acknowledges that these health passports will be invented by the private sector as business opportunities created by the novel COVID-19 virus. This calls for a concerted collaboration between the government and the private sector to facilitate the development, accessibility and rollout of such travel health passports. The Committee views these health passports as an important invention that will open up the MICE sector and restore livelihoods for many in the sector. The health passports are not only critical for the international travel but are also pivotal for the full resumption of the domestic tourism activities. This invention will also expedite the reopening of attendance of spectators to sporting eventsat stadiums, allow patrons to visit night clubs, and other social gatherings that boost domestic tourism.
- The Health Passport Worldwide as one of the interventions to reopen the MICE sector
The Committee observed that the Health Passport Worldwide is a secure system that combines testing and vaccinations with the latest digital technology to provide an efficient health passport system. The people have immediate access to their personal COVID-19 status, which can be digitally scanned for integration with existing travel, health and event system. The Committee also noted that Health Passport Worldwide has a capacity to test over 65 000 people within 8 hours. The Committee views this capacity as a significant vehicle that could be used to test people who want to attend business events, sporting events and social gatherings. The capacity of the Health Passport Worldwide system has a huge potential to assist in facilitating the immediate reopening the MICE sector.
The Committee also noted that the Health Passport Worldwide system was tested on the 21st December 2020 in a live music event called Recharge 2020 hosted at the Grand Café in Cape Town where 500 people were tested for COVID-19. The results come back with 30 positive cases. This proves that the system is somehow reliable, though more events hosted may provide conclusive information on the effectiveness and efficacy of the system.
- Possible collaboration between the government and Health Passport Worldwide
The Committee noted that the cost for a Rapid Antigen Test with results available in 15 minutes is R350 and for the PCR Test with results available in 24 to 48 hours is R850. The Committee views this as a potential deterrence for people who may want to access various tourism activities, such as attending sporting events and engaging in various domestic tourism activities. The Committee also noted, however, that the costs may be significantly brought down if the volumes of tests are rapidly increased. The Committee was informed that a bigger portion of the current costs is not necessarily that of testing but incidental costs related to rental of the facility at the Lookout Point where testing is currently done. The Committee also noted that testing capabilities could be rolled out nationally with various centres opened nationwide, but this will require substantial collaboration amongst stakeholders. The Committee is of the view that this system is worth exploring by the government. The Departments of Health; Home Affairs; Tourism; Sports, Arts and Culture and others may explore collaborating with the private sector to ascertain the effectiveness and efficacy of the health passport system to assist in reopening the business tourism sector and related sporting and economic activities.
It should, however, be noted that he Committee is not advocating for a sole collaboration with the Health Passport Worldwide system. The government is urged to explore the availability of such health passport systems worldwide and forge collaborations with whichever is deemed cost effective and most appropriate for the South African situation.
Having made a number of observations, the Committee recommends for response within three months after adoption of this report by the House that the Minister of Tourism:
- Engages the Cabinet to explore the effectiveness and efficacy of the various health passport systems in assisting South Africa to immediately reopen business tourism, sporting events and other associated domestic tourism and social gatherings through:
- Exploring necessary collaborations required between the government and the private sector to make health passports affordable and a viable intervention to test people en masse for business events, sporting events and other related domestic tourism and social gatherings.
- Engaging Health Passport South Africa to use this system as a case study to explore the possibility of using the health passports as a vehicle to immediately reopen business tourism.
- Adopting a health passport system that will be used by the country in facilitating a complete reopening of the tourism sector in South Africa.
- Instructs the South African Conventions Bureau to conduct a study to ascertain the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on business events and how the pandemic will shape the future of business tourism in South Africa.
- Engages the Tourism Business Council of South Africa to ascertain the readiness of the tourism business (MICE) sector in South Africa to adapt and host business events under the new normal conditions imposed by COVID-19.
The Committee is convinced that the tourism industry can be completely reopened with right protocols and technologies such as a health passport in place. The committee was pleased with the service offering of HPSA as it would help open up the tourism industry and revive the business events sector and boost job creation,which has been stagnant since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As this technology has already been selected as the platform to reopen international festivals at the Algarve in Portugal this year, the Committee urges the Minister of Tourism to engage other relevant departments such as Sport, Tourism, Health, Home Affairs and Transport to collaborate for assistance in part funding with the private sector to ensure that a viable health passport system is be made available to the public for future events and travel.
Report to be considered.
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