Re-opening access after COVID-19 lockdown through the safe movement of people is critical to the economic growth and recovery of the world’s economy. Yet, as the COVID-19 vaccine is yet to be found, leaders are considering turning to “immunity passport” for their business travel continuity plan. But what do the experts really think about the programme?
Immunity passport is physical or digital documents that could be given to people who have recovered from COVID-19 to show they are immune from the disease for a period of time (about 12 months). It is separated from the testing kits and operational strategy that will dictate how, when and on whom the tests will take place. It is the association of immunity certification, granted by health authorities, with the person’s digital identity that creates the passport. The UK Parliament described that an immunity passport is not a quick fix, but could be a long-term scalable solution for the “new normality”.
To run the programme successfully, 4 factors must be fulfilled, as follows:
Whilst the programme seems perfect for the new normality and for business leaders to be able to travel again freely, experts are not yet convinced these passports will work in practice. WHO told CNBC that the idea is great but they stand up to security. The detection of antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 could serve as the basis for an immunity passport or risk-free certificate. Yet, there is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.
In addition, people who assume that they are immune to a second infection because they have received a positive test result might ignore public health advice. The use of such certificates might, therefore, increase the risk of continued transmission. As new evidence becomes available, the WHO will update this scientific brief.