Ministers looking at 'immunity certificates' for people who have recovered from Covid-19

22 May 2020, 08:41

A medic demonstrates the use of a home antibody testing kit
A medic demonstrates the use of a home antibody testing kit. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Ministers are looking at introducing so-called immunity certificates for people who test positive for Covid-19 antibodies after recovering from the virus.

While it remains unclear what level of immunity people develop once they have had Covid-19, some experts hope a degree of immunity lasts for at least a year or two.

Matt Hancock said yesterday that ministers are already looking at a 'system of certification' for people who have overcome the virus.

He said: “We're developing this critical science to know the impact of a positive antibody test and to develop the systems of certification to ensure people who have positive antibodies can be given assurances of what they can safely do.'

He added: "We're not yet in a position to say that those who test positive in these antibody tests are immune from coronavirus.

"But as our understanding of the disease improves, the insight these antibody tests provide will be crucial."

However, having antibodies does not automatically mean a person will not pass the virus onto somebody else.

It comes after the Government announced it had agreed a deal with pharmaceutical firms Roche and Abbott for more than 10 million antibody tests, which will first be rolled out to health and social care staff as well as patients and care home residents.

Mr Hancock also announced a trial of a rapid 20-minute test to tell people if they currently have Covid-19 following criticisms that people have been waiting days or weeks for test results.

A&E departments, GP testing hubs and care homes in Hampshire will all trial the new test, which will be used on up to 4,000 people.

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The test does not need to be sent off to a lab and will be rolled out if it is shown to be effective, Mr Hancock said.

Around one in six people in London and one in 20 elsewhere in England have already had coronavirus, Matt Hancock said as he announced plans for antibody certificates.

Data gathered from an antibody surveillance study led by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests 17% of people in London and around 5% in England have tested positive for antibodies to coronavirus, the Health Secretary told the daily Downing Street briefing yesterday.

Mr Hancock also said more than 10 million antibody tests will start being rolled out next week and will first be offered to health and social care staff as well as patients and care home residents.