Governments around the world are mulling giving those who have recovered from COVID-19 a pass to travel as they please, but experts warn it could pose a serious danger.
The UK was the first to float the idea, with its Health Secretary Matt Hancock telling a press briefing at the beginning of April the government was considering issuing ‘immunity certificates’ but admitted it was still “too early in the science” to give details.
Germany, Chile and the US have also discussed the idea to release the certificates in an attempt to kickstart the economy, and Italians may even face mandatory blood tests to determine who can participate in normal life, according to ABC News.
Reuters has reported that Chile will be the first country to actually put the certificates into practice, with sub-secretary of Chile’s Health Ministry, Paula Daza, telling reporters the “COVID-19 card is being prepared and will be delivered soon”.
NBC has since reported the “card” will take the form of a QR code and will be issued to people who have recovered from COVID-19 and are 14 days clear of symptoms.
Last month, the World Health Organisation warned against issuing what it called “immunity passports” to recoverees.
“There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” the organisation said in a scientific brief.
Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist with the WHO, has also voiced concerns that those with a certificate “may not adhere to public health measures that they need to continue to adhere to”, ABC News reported.
Rachel Ankeny, a professor of humanities from the University of Adelaide, told the ABC’s PM program that certificates could be “extremely dangerous because it’s going to privilege or empower certain groups”.
I. Glenn Cohen, a bioethics expert at Harvard Law School, told Bloomberg the certificates may even cause people to seek out infecting themselves with COVID-19.
“That sounds crazy, but if having the antibodies becomes the cost of entering the job market and thus feeding your family, there may be workers who feel pressured into it,” Cohen said.
Last month, researchers at Monash University in Melbourne and Alfred Health began developing a test to determine who had immunity to the virus.
However, there are currently no signs the Australian government is pursuing rolling out the certificates.
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