Coronavirus ‘immunity passports’ plan is doomed to fail after only 10 per cent of Italians have developed Covid-19 antibodies, says top health official
- Head of the civil protection agency Silvio Brusaferro said the ‘target is far off’
- But regional governments plan on rolling out antibody blood-testing schemes
- Italy has registered 575 deaths over the past 24 hours, taking the total to 22,745
- Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID
The coronavirus ‘immunity passports’ plan is doomed to fail after only 10 per cent of Italians have developed COVID-19 antibodies, a top health official has said.
The head of the civil protection agency Silvio Brusaferro said that the ‘target is far off’ and the concept is unfeasible.
The announcement however has not stopped many regional governments – which have control over their own healthcare – from rolling out antibody blood-testing schemes.
The national government also has plans to launch a programme.
The community ‘immunity passports’ plan is doomed to fail after only 10 per cent of Italians have developed COVID-19 antibodies, a top health official has said. Pictured: healthcare workers in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Rome
The region of Lombardy plans to start conducting immunity tests next week in the hope of issuing ‘licences’ to people found to be resistant.
Lombardy has been by far the worst-affected region in Italy, piling up more cases and deaths than many countries have done.
Health care workers will be first in line for Lombardy’s antibody tests but the regional government hopes to expand the tests to the general public.
The provinces of Bergamo, Brescia, Cremona and Lodi will have particular priority after their health systems were overwhelmed by the crisis.
Italy has registered 575 deaths over the past 24 hours, taking the total to 22,745, the second highest after America.
Italian police deliver food vouchers destined for people in economic difficulties due to the coronavirus pandemic, in Rome, Italy. Italy has registered 575 deaths over the past 24 hours, taking the total to 22,745, the second highest after America
However the number of new cases continue to fall and the number of patients in intensive care beds has remained below 3,000 for the first time since March 21.
The idea of ‘immunity passports’ involves the creation of some kind of certificate or proof that somebody has had the virus – and thereby gained immunity – meaning they can freely live their life.
German researchers have begun studying the concept and UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced in early April that the British government was considering an ‘immunity certificate’ system to allow those who qualify to ‘get back as much as possible to normal life’.
He added: ‘That is an important thing that we will be doing and are looking at, but it’s too early in the science to be able to put clarity around that.’
Other health experts have stressed worries over immunity passports as it’s not yet known if patients can be reinfected by COVID-19.
One public health expert in Australia said she was concerned about the reliability and feasibility of the certificates.
‘Even if they have the antibody, we don’t know how long the immunity can last and whether or not they could get reinfection,’ she said.
‘Who is going to issue the certificates? Do we have the capacity to test antibodies for a wider population?’
In Italy the plateau in the number of deaths is down considerably from peaks reached around the end of March, but the downtrend has not proceeded as was widely hoped.
Italy has been under lockdown longer than any other European country, after a nationwide quarantine was imposed on March 9.
Officials have spoken of a ‘phase two’ in which Italy learns to ‘live with the virus’ until a vaccine is developed, which is likely to be months away at least.
Lockdown measures been extended into May, but Italy is now hoping to use a smartphone app to held identify new outbreaks once the quarantine is lifted.
Coronavirus commissioner Domenico Arcuri signed a decree late on Thursday awarding the app contract to a Milan-based startup called Bending Spoons.
Arcuri’s decree states that free app must preserve users’ anonymity and not track location. Instead, it will use bluetooth to log the phone’s movements.
The EU has recommended tracking apps as part of a plan unveiled on Wednesday to help countries ease restrictions.
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