Bold plan for recovered virus cases

As coronavirus continues to have a damaging impact on economies around the world a bold plan has been proposed which would allow recovered patients to resume normal life again.

UK health secretary Matt Hancock has suggested the country look at introducing an "immunity certificate" which could take the form of a wristband and allow those who have had coronavirus and recovered to resume work and everyday activities.

"We are looking at an immunity certificate, how people who've had the disease, have got the antibodies and therefore have immunity, can show that and get back as much as possible to normal life," he told reporters.

While the move could be a lifesaver for businesses that have been forced to shut because of coronavirus, Mr Hancock conceded that it was still "too early in the science" of the disease to know if it would be safe to take such a step.


Mr Hancock is one of several UK politicians, including prime minister Boris Johnson, that have contracted coronavirus. Mr Hancock has since made a full recovery.

The UK has been in lockdown for two weeks now with all business except those offering essential services such as supermarkets closed.

So far it had more than 38,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 3600 deaths from the disease.



Health protection expert Paul Hunter told CNN that while he had thought the idea was "brilliant" at first, there was a lot that could go wrong with an immunity certificate.

Certificates could be forged and people might even try and deliberately get infected so they could return to work more quickly, defeating the purpose of current social distancing measures.

"Could people pretend they were immune when they weren't because they needed to go out and earn money?" Professor Hunter said.

However, an immunity certificate would allow people who had caught coronavirus and recovered to get back into places "where they are going to be meeting lots of others".

"Health care workers, front line workers, supermarket workers, who would otherwise be at risk but once they've had the infection know that they don't need to worry they will take the infection back to their families," Professor Hunter said.



Mr Hancock has told British TV station ITV the government had not yet found an antibody test that would effectively show if someone had coronavirus and was immune.

"As yet we're not going to bring them in because we don't know yet that the immunity is strong enough and there's still more science that needs to be done about the levels of immunity in people after they've had the disease," Mr Hancock said.

Meanwhile reports have emerged of people becoming reinfected with coronavirus, with a Japanese woman in February catching the virus for a second time and similar instances in China.

It is still not known if you can catch coronavirus twice or how long immunity lasts.
It is still not known if you can catch coronavirus twice or how long immunity lasts.

However, many experts are sceptical about whether reinfection can occur, with Professor Jimmy Whitworth from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine saying these reports were likely due to the way the tests were conducted.

There have been a few isolated examples where [reinfection] has been reported. That people were positive, then they were negative, then they were positive again," he said during a recent live Q&A session.

"It looks like, in the great majority of cases, this doesn't happen. That people get infected once.

"My suspicion is that those discrepant test results that we get are to do with, actually, the sampling. It's not straightforward to take a sample from the back of the throat and make sure you catch virus every time."

Professor Whitworth said most experts now believe that people become immune after having coronavirus, however it's unclear how long the immunity lasts.

Originally published as Bold plan for recovered virus cases

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