What are immunity passports- could they help ease the coronavirus lockdown?

31 March 2020, 11:46

What are immunity passports and could they help you get out of lockdown sooner?
What are immunity passports and could they help you get out of lockdown sooner? Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

"Immunity passports" could be one way of getting people who have had coronavirus back to work and to ease lockdown restrictions for some.

Scientists and politicians in the UK have suggested that the Government should be looking to the example set by Germany when it comes to the process during the coronavirus outbreak.

Here's everything we know on immunity passports.

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What are immunity passports?

Basically they are a document that says your body has the antibodies needed to fight off the Co.vid-19 infection

Where did the immunity passports idea come from?

German researchers are suggesting that “immunity passports” could be given out to workers who have already caught Covid-19 — meaning they are now immune.

Researchers are currently preparing a mass study into how many people are already immune to the Covid-19 virus.

The study is yet to arrange funding, but would see 100,000 volunteers tested for coronavirus antibodies.

The test would then be repeated at regular intervals on an accumulatively larger sample of the population, to track the pandemic’s progress.

The presence of antibodies in the blood indicates that the body is capable of fighting the virus and those who are in this stage could be issued a document allowing them to return to work.

Those shown to have developed immunity could be given a “kind of vaccination passport that allows them, for example, to be exempted from curbs on their activities”, Gérard Krause, a leading immunologist co-ordinating the study, told Der Spiegel magazine.

Labour's Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said: “Germany appears to be leading the way in the testing and we have much to learn from their approach. I’ve repeatedly called for more testing and contact tracing in the UK, and we should be looking at initiatives like this closely.”

What are the downsides to immunity passports?

Concerns have been raised that such a scheme could lead to certain groups, such as young people who are falling into debt through lack of work, to actively contract the virus in the hope that they can return to their jobs once recovered.

Also, at the moment there is testing underway to see if you can get the virus twice, if this proves to be the case it may be difficult to issue immunity passports.