Exclusive | Cathay Pacific and Prenetics to launch London-Hong Kong digital health passport in October in bid to ease travel
- Pilot project, which starts on the Hong Kong-London route, will allow travellers to show their negative Covid-19 test results on a mobile app before boarding
- Premier League renews Prenetics’ contract to test players in the new football season
Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong start-up Prenetics are set to launch a digital health passport that allows travellers to show their negative Covid-19 test results on a mobile app before boarding, potentially easing international travel and establishing a new model to help airlines and airports ride out the health crisis.
International travel is gradually restarting as governments negotiate to lift border restrictions and scramble to resurrect trade and their moribund tourist industries.
However, the government’s announcement raised questions as to the practicalities and safety of such a move. Travellers will need a secure and verifiable way to document their health status as they travel and cross borders.
Commerce chief Edward Yau Tang-wah hinted on September 9 that, to make bubbles possible, coronavirus tests before departure and upon arrival might be necessary, and the two sides would need to discuss whether negative results at both ends meant travellers could skip quarantine or spend less time in isolation.
Britain was not on the September 8 list of 11 countries in talks about creating a travel bubble with Hong Kong.
“Frequent testing could be one of our most important interventions as fall approaches to prevent large outbreaks,” said Danny Yeung, co-founder and group CEO of Prenetics.
Studies have shown that there could be a 65 per cent reduction in infectiousness with weekly testing. Prenetics plans to launch a Covid-19 test before the end of the year that yields results within 30 minutes.
Tourism is not the only segment of the economy that has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. Sports fixtures worldwide almost ground to a halt earlier this year.
The English Premier League has renewed Prenetics’ contract for the new season as its sole testing provider.
Prenetics, which owns the largest private laboratory in Hong Kong, also announced the completion of a US$15 million Series C fundraising round, led by London-headquartered investment manager Apis Partners and existing investor Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund, a not-for-profit initiative started by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, the founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding. Alibaba is the parent of the South China Morning Post.
Prenetics raised US$40 million from a Series B fundraising drive in 2017 and US$10 million in a Series A round in 2016. Its other investors include Indonesia’s Lippo Group-backed Venturra Capital, San Francisco-headquartered 500 Startups, Hong Kong-based venture capital fund Beyond Ventures, MFund, China-focused Yuantai Investment Partners, Singapore’s Reapra and Ping An Ventures, the venture capital arm of Ping An Insurance Group.
Prenetics has now raised more than US$60 million since it was founded in 2014. The proceeds from the fundraising will be ploughed into developing Covid-19 testing technologies.
Hong Kong’s Covid-19 mass testing ends with at least 42 carriers found among 1.78 million people
Prenetics is a genetics and diagnostic health-testing company, operational in 10 countries with a team of over 200 people. It has performed more than 300,000 RT-PCR Covid-19 tests in Hong Kong and in the UK, having identified 280 individuals who tested positive for Covid-19.
Hong Kong followed in the footsteps of mainland China cities, Germany, Iceland and South Korea in using mass community testing as a way to identify asymptomatic people in the community and halt the spread of the coronavirus.
The BMJ, a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal, said 78 per cent of Covid-19 patients might be asymptomatic, underscoring the importance of testing.