Chile is preparing this week to deploy some of the world’s first “release certificates” for recovered patients. Health officials say they are not “immunity cards” but have already suggested that they would indicate some degree of resistance to the disease.
Health Minister Jaime Manalich said he and officials from United Nations health agencies had met and agreed that there was no way to guarantee immunity. But he cited data from China and South Korea that indicate shorter-term protection for those who survive the disease.
“The probability that someone will get sick again or someone else will get sick is very remote. How long? A minimum of three months, “Manalich told reporters during a daily briefing.
Manalich, a kidney specialist who once ran one of Chile’s best hospitals, said the certificates Chile plans to issue will follow antibody tests and at least help identify those who have already had the disease.
The World Health Organization said last week that there was no evidence to support any request for immunity and warned against giving false hope to survivors or those who come into contact with them.
Dr Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergency expert, reiterated these concerns on Monday in Geneva, saying it was easier to prove that someone had the disease than to show that they were immune .
“The scientific question is,” To what extent does having this infection protect you from another infection? “” Said Ryan. “This is the question that still needs to be addressed. “
Ryan said scientists expect the antibodies to provide some protection. But he said it was not yet clear how long this immunity could last, or how well it could protect a recovered patient from contracting the disease again.
Chile has not yet specified what guarantees certificates could offer to those who hold them, or when they would expire.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health declined to give further details.
Chile has been widely praised for its approach to the fight against the coronavirus, including its extensive tests, its flexible quarantines specific to each region and its rapid action to secure additional fans.
The country has confirmed nearly 14,000 cases of viral infection since the start of the epidemic in early March and 198 deaths.
(Reporting by Dave Sherwood and Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Dan Grebler)