CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: US, UK, Germany studying Covid-19 passports

Despite the misgivings of the World Health Organization, the idea of granting freedom of movement to people with antibodies is gathering traction.

Coronavirus: US, UK, Germany studying Covid-19 passports
IVAN ALVARADO REUTERS

Despite the World Health Organization's misgivings about the possibility of causing social divisions in communities already ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, the debate is underway about a Covid-19 immunity passport. Chile, the USA and Catalonia are among the countries and regions considering the measure as a way to gradually lift quarantine restrictions, theoretically without placing the wider population at any greater risk of contracting the novel coronavirus. 

In Catalonia, the idea has been suggested as an annex to the overall plan for a gradual de-escalation of lockdown restrictions in the autonomous region of northern Spain. The basic idea is to issue a passport to those people who have developed antibodies against the coronavirus, even though that has yet to be proven as a guarantee of immunity against the disease. The WHO has consistently warned about the dangers of lifting quarantine restrictions prematurely for fear of a second wave of the pandemic later in the year. However, Spain is among many countries to be studying a gradual phasing out of the current lockdown orders, which are among the strictest in Europe, by allowing children under the age of 14 to go out on brief walks accompanied by adults as of 26 March

The Catalonian model would allow citizens who have been cleared for the coronavirus passport to go about their daily business, although Mertitxell Budó, minister of the presidency in Catalonia and regional government spokesperson, has stressed that "nothing has yet been decided" on the subject. 

Chile leading the charge for coronavirus passports

Chile, meanwhile, has placed itself firmly in the pro camp concerning a coronavirus passport. The country's health minister, Jaime Mañalich, told reporters that Chile will issue passports to those people who have spent the required 14 days in isolation after contracting Covid-19 and who display "relaible antibodies" confirmed through "reliable testing procedures." 

"These people will be free of all quarantine measures and restrictions because they can help enormously in the fight against this illness," Mañalich said. 

Other countries studying the possibility of issuing coronavirus passports to kickstart battered economies and provide additional support to the health services and other sectors include the US, Germany and the UK, where the debate has not been without controversy given the lack of scientific viability surrounding the issue. It remains unclear if a person can be infected twice by coronavirus and until a vaccine becomes available the issue of these types of free passes will rest entirely on available testing procedures