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WHO warns against coronavirus 'immunity passports'


The United Nations's health agency has warned there's no scientific evidence to prove that individuals who have recovered from the coronavirus develop immunity against potential infection within the future, because the global toll from COVID-19 passed 200,000 on Saturday amid 2.8 million infections.

The World Health Organization (WHO) gave the warning as variety of nations consider issuing so-called "immunity passports" to folks that have recovered from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.


The WHO said such a move could actually increase the transmission of the novel coronavirus as folks that have recovered may ignore advice about taking standard precautions against the virus.

"Some governments have suggested that the detection of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could function the idea for an 'immunity passport' or 'risk-free certificate' that might enable individuals to travel or to return to figure assuming that they're protected against re-infection," the WHO said.

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

The UN's health agency issued the warning because the coronavirus pandemic reached a grim new milestone because the toll passed 200,000 worldwide. The us has seen the best number of fatalities, with its toll passing 50,000 earlier on, while Italy, Spain, France and therefore the UK have all reported death tolls over 20,000.

A number of governments have proposed a gradual return to figure, as restrictions imposed on movement to curb the spread of the virus have crippled economies round the world.

Last week, Chile announced plans to convey "health passports" to patients who have recovered from COVID-19. Once checked for the presence of antibodies, they'd be allowed to travel back to figure, officials said.

"We understand the intention of trying to determine who can go safely back to figure or who can be eventually risk-free of infecting others," WHO spokesman Tarik Jaserevic told Al Jazeera. "But unfortunately, from a scientific point of view, we simply do not know if someone who has been infected by the coronavirus gets this immunity, and if someone gets this immunity, how long it's lasting."

The WHO also believes that the serological tests currently accustomed seek for the presence of antibodies "need additional validation to see their accuracy and reliability".

In particular, tests have to be able to distinguish between the response to the novel coronavirus from the antibodies produced during an infection of the opposite six known human coronaviruses, four of which are widespread, causing mild colds.

The other two are accountable for MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

"People infected with one or the opposite of those viruses are capable of manufacturing antibodies which interact with antibodies produced in response to infection caused by SARS-CoV-2," the WHO said.

Caryn Bern, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California city School of medication, works with a team to research the effectiveness of antibody tests.

"Our data seems to suggest that a number of the tests that are being employed can provides a pretty accurate picture of population level exposure and infection. What we do not know yet is whether or not these forms of antibodies, IGM and IGG, correlate with antibodies that might be protective against future infections which are generally called neutralizing antibodies. that's work that also must be done," she told Al Jazeera.

"We are approaching this the way we might a replacement strain of influenza and after all that's the problem; nobody has immunity to start out with and that we still don't fully understand whether people become immune. There probably is immunity, but we do not are aware of it yet, we do not know the way long it last.

"The antibody tests are a tool that we are able to use to assess population exposure rates. We already know that in places that are hotspots, like areas outside Boston, a awfully large percentage, 25 percent or 30 percent of individuals who were tested, were positive to those antibody tests. It's less a tool for people than it's for populations," she added.

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