Zara and Mike Tindall left red-faced after ad for Covid app triggered health concerns

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Zara and Mike invested in a new app last May, which allows Covid test results to be uploaded to a phone so the public can demonstrate they are safe to attend large events. The couple then featured in an ad to promote the app, VHealth Passport. Zara, a renowned equestrian, was shown having an antibody test, while former England Rugby star Mike said the app was a potential “game-changer” for encouraging the public back to sporting occasions during the same video.

The advert then tells viewers Zara’s antibody test will tell her if she is “currently” infected or previously had it.

However the ad raised concerns within the scientific community at the time, as the Government has previously said antibody tests do not show if you are currently infected with the deadly virus.

This particular test does not inform the user whether or not they can spread the disease.

As a result, the platform was referred to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, but they confirmed that the app is not a medical device and so not in their remit.

This organisation then passed it onto the Advertising Standards Authority for further investigation.

The owners of the VHealth Passport, VST Enterprises, said it was “fully engaged” with regulators following the backlash.

It added that the app was not supposed to be an “immunity passport” but aimed to encourage “the user to have a regular test cycle to manage their personal contact with the virus”.

The company added that the app “does not promote or recommend any specific Covid test or manufacturer” and is guided by medical science and the Government’s advice.

Once a member of the public has created an account with VHealth Passport, they can book a coronavirus test via the app.

The results are then uploaded to the app, and a negative test result produces a green tick on the screen.

A unique digital code can then be scanned from the app from more than two metres away to certify the user’s current health status.

VST Enterprises added that the test kit used in the ad was just for professional use and registered with the MHRA.

Medakit demonstrate how to take their coronavirus antibody test

It also claimed that the test used was exceptional because it tested for antibodies that presented as early as three to four days after infection.

It continued: “In this particular instance, the VHealth Passport was demonstrating how a rapid Covid test kit could be used.

“It will work with any test that is recommended by the Government.”

An MHRA spokesperson said: “Antibody tests are not used for diagnosis but rather to give a better understanding of the prevalence of the virus in different places and therefore cannot be relied upon for protection to Covid-19 or to detect previous infection.”

The BBC’s health editor Michelle Roberts said: “The test taken by Mrs Tindall looks for three types of antibody – IgG, IgM and IgA.

“These start to appear a few days after coronavirus infection and stick around for weeks in the blood.

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“A negative result means there are no signs that someone has had coronavirus — but it doesn’t give someone the all clear and mean they are ‘safe’ in terms of infection risk.”

She noted someone could still currently have the virus but their body may not have had time to produce antibodies yet.

Professor of biostatistics at the University of Birmingham, Jon Deeks, told the BBC that he had been the one to report the advert.

He said: “If people use these tests, they get a negative result and they go and think they haven’t got Covid when they could actually still be infectious, that might mean people don’t social distance and so on.

“And that might increase the risk of actually spreading Covid.”

According to The Telegraph, he said: “If you are told by a test, like on that video, you haven’t got the virus, you may stop socially distancing.

“In fact as [Zara] hears those words, ‘You haven’t got Covid’, she takes her mask off.”

The Tindalls were approached by the BBC for comment back in November.

Branding specialists told the Daily Mail last May that they estimated the couple could make as much as £200,000 by becoming ambassadors for VST Enterprises.

Neither Zara nor Mike are working royals and they have extensive freedom to invest in a range of businesses.

However, royal commentator Erin Vanderhoof claimed in Vanity Fair last May: “This newest contract is coming in the midst of a major crisis and the product is directly related to it.

“We might never know if the Queen is already expressing some disappointment behind closed doors.” has contacted Zara and Mike’s representatives for comment.

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