Coronavirus: ‘No evidence’ recovered patients safe from second infection, says WHO

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The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday that there was currently “no evidence” that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second coronavirus infection.

In a statement, the United Nations agency warned against issuing “immunity passports” or “risk-free certificates” to people who have been infected, saying the practice may actually increase the risk of spread as they may ignore standard advice.

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Chile said last week it would begin handing out “health passports” to people deemed to have recovered from the illness.

Once screened to determine if they have developed antibodies to make them immune to the virus, they could immediately rejoin the workforce.

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Threat to exit strategy

The WHO's warning against assuming that people will be immune to COVID-19 once they have caught it may threaten governments' plans for an exit strategy from lockdown.

Several countries including Germany and Sweden have floated the idea of issuing “immunity passports” to people who have already had COVID-19, allowing them to go back to work. This strategy aims to put an end to the economically disastrous lockdowns imposed by governments across the world.

However, the plan is based on the assumption that catching COVID-19 and surviving the disease makes a person immune. As the WHO has warned, we simply don't know if this is actually the case.

Likewise, antibody tests which reveal whether a person has had COVID-19 are still unreliable. This means that deciding who gets an “immunity passport” will be based on unreliable results.

Read more: Coronavirus lockdowns unproven, politically dangerous and hard to exit: Expert

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