Germany planning Coronavirus 'immunity certificates' to leave lockdown early

Germany could issue thousands of people coronavirus 'immunity certificates' so they can leave the lockdown early

Germans could soon be issued "immunity certificates" that would allow them to leave the country's coronavirus lockdown earlier than the rest of the population if they test positive for antibodies to the virus.

States across Germany are in lockdown, with strict quarantines imposed in some parts of the country.

However, researchers at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig want to send out hundreds of thousands of antibody tests over the coming weeks that could allow people to break free of the lockdowns, Der Spiegel reported on Friday.

If the project is approved, the researchers will test 100,000 people at a time starting in early April, Der Spiegel said.

The tests are designed to detect whether a person has developed antibodies to the COVID-19 virus, indicating that they were at one time a carrier and may have built up immunity.

(more at link)

Will that work well if there is a stage 2, mutated virus?

From the article: (it doesn't mention a mutated virus, but some other challenges to this approach):

Some tests have also reportedly demonstrated false positives, detecting antibodies to other, much more common coronaviruses.

Scientists also remain unsure about the extent to which past infection with the virus can prevent reinfection and for how long immunity will remain.

Would any of the persons who tested positive for antibodies still be able to pass the virus on to others (asymptomatic carriers)?

Formerlyjerseyjack said:

Will that work well if there is a stage 2, mutated virus?

If it's like similar viruses, antibodies protect against different strains.  Not sure if naturally person by person, but definitely in prepared vaccines.

joan_crystal said:

Would any of the persons who tested positive for antibodies still be able to pass the virus on to others (asymptomatic carriers)?

My understanding, which could be wrong, is that if they had fully recovered from the virus (which may be another test?), they wouldn't be carrying the virus and shedding it. However, if they come in contact with active cases (especially a childcare or health care worker), they could potentially carry the virus shed from an infected person on their clothes or skin to another person or location for some amount of time (a few hours or possibly days).

More on Germany's approach, here focusing on testing:

I think a high level of testing is the common factor among countries that have had better outcomes. Also, for @terp and other liberatarian-minded posters, I thought this part was interesting:

"We have a culture here in Germany that is actually not supporting a centralized diagnostic system," said Drosten, "so Germany does not have a public health laboratory that would restrict other labs from doing the tests. So we had an open market from the beginning."

In other words, Germany's equivalent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the Robert Koch Institute — makes recommendations but does not call the shots on testing for the entire country. Germany's 16 federal states make their own decisions on coronavirus testing because each of them is responsible for their own health care system

I feel that libertarians often conflate a strong state with centralization, but examples like Germany I think show that's not necessarily true. Germany is in many ways much less centralized than the US -- even in essential areas like health, as we see here -- but no one would call Germany a weak state.

A few thoughts on this 

Is there an actual immunity to this.  Some reports are saying people are getting reinfected, though it seems rare.  To put this in perspective I know a few people who have gotten chicken pox twice, though when looking at large number of the population we do consider people to be immune if they’ve had it.  It might just be something similar and those who were reinfected might just be outliers

If there is immunity after infection, how long does it last?  For example, with norovirus you will have temporary immunity after an infection, but not lifelong immunity 

Finally, if we can’t even get enough tests to see who actively has this thing to help keep the population as a whole safe, I don’t see us being able to produce large scale tests for antibodies anytime soon

More discussion (pros/cons) on the topic: 

Is an 'immunity certificate' the way to get out of coronavirus lockdown?

Some excerpts:

Difficult social questions could also be thrown up. Could immunity passports create a kind of two-tier society, where those who have them can return to a more normal life while others remain locked down?

...Pressed about the immunity passport idea Friday, Hancock told UK broadcaster ITV that the UK government had not so far found an antibody test that works...


Two-tier society?

Paul Hunter, professor of health protection at England's University of East Anglia, told CNN that his first reaction on hearing Hancock's proposal was "what a brilliant idea" but that his thoughts had quickly turned to what could go wrong.

On the positive side, he said, "if you get something like this, you can get people back into areas 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."

One big downside, however, is the potential for people to act fraudulently. "Could people pretend they were immune when they weren't because they needed to go out and earn money?" Hunter asked.

It's also not clear whether the antibody test, once a reliable type has been developed, would be administered at home or in a healthcare setting....

...Another more serious issue, he said, is whether people might deliberately seek to get infected in order to -- hopefully -- recover and go back to work. "If that happens, that might undermine a lot of what we are trying to do with social distancing."


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