GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday that there is currently “no evidence” that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second coronavirus infection.
In a scientific note, the United Nations agency warned governments against issuing “immunity passports” or “safe certificates” to infected people because their accuracy could not be guaranteed.
The practice could actually increase the risk of continued spread, as people who have recovered may ignore the advice on taking standard precautions against the virus, he said.
“Some governments have suggested that the detection of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could serve as the basis for a” passport of immunity “or” safe certificate “which would allow individuals to travel or return to work assuming they are protected from re-infection, “said WHO.
“There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and who have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” he said.
Chile said last week that it would begin issuing “health passports” to those believed to be recovering from the disease. Once screened to determine if they have developed antibodies to immunize them against the virus, they could immediately re-enter the workforce.
The WHO said it has continued to examine the evidence for antibody responses to the virus, which emerged in the central city of Wuhan in China late last year. Some 2.8 million people have been infected with the new coronavirus worldwide, and 196,298 have died, according to a Reuters count.
Most studies have shown that people who have recovered from an infection have antibodies to the virus, according to the WHO. However, some of them have very low levels of neutralizing antibodies in their blood, “suggesting that cellular immunity may also be critical for recovery,” he added.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Louise Heavens and Helen Popper)