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Caution against the use of so-called “Immunity Passports”

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns against coronavirus ‘Immunity Passports’ as there is no evidence recovered patients are shielded from reinfection.

As leaders across the world turn their focus to reopening their economies after weeks of social restrictions designed to contain the pandemic. Many have been hoping to deploy some form of certificate system allowing people deemed immune to travel and work.

However, WHO has warned governments against issuing “immunity passports” of “risk-free certificates” to allow people who show antibodies for coronavirus to return to work.

“Some governments have suggested that the detection of antibodies to the Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, could serve as the basis for an ‘immunity passport’ or ‘risk-free certificate’ that would enable individuals to travel or to return to work assuming that they are protected against re-infection,” the WHO said.

There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.

But the WHO said in a scientific briefing that although studies have shown that people who recovered from SARS-CoV- 2 have antibodies, some “have very low levels of neutralizing antibodies in their blood”.

“As of April 24, no study has evaluated whether the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 confers immunity to subsequent infection by this virus in humans,” it added.

It also warned that the passports could increase risk of continued transmission as “people who assume they are immune to a second infection because they have received a positive test result may ignore public health advice.”

The WHO said it continued to review the evidence on antibody responses to the virus, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.