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Chile to issue world's first 'immunity passports' to people who have recovered from coronavirus

Chile to issue world's first 'immunity passports' to people who have recovered from coronavirus
© Marcelo Hernandez/Getty Images

Chile is expected to issue the world’s first “immunity passports” to people who have recovered from the coronavirus, marking them exempt from quarantines and other restrictions.

The so-called immunity passports would allow those who have recovered from the coronavirus or tested positive for the presence of antibodies to return to work and help reopen the country, The Washington Post reported. Paula Daza, an undersecretary in the Chilean Health Ministry, said more than 4,600 people are already eligible for the digital or physical cards. 

Residents can apply for cards and be tested for antibodies if they haven’t shown symptoms for the disease, as authorities vowed mass testing would be available. 

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“It’s precisely they who can help the community enormously, because they don’t present a risk,” Health Minister Jaime Mañalich said when announcing the cards last week, according to the Post. 

But health experts warn the Latin American country could be moving too fast, as relatively little is known about immunity from the coronavirus. South Korea reported 141 positive cases from people who were thought to have previously recovered from the virus.

Cristóbal Cuadrado, the technical secretary for health policy and studies with Chile’s medical union, said experts have requested the government reevaluate the policy before putting it in place later this week.

“There are serious doubts over the existence of long-term immunity to this virus, and there was no consultation with the Chilean Immunological Society before this measure was announced,” he said, according to the Post. 

The Chilean government says patients are no longer contagious 14 days after acute symptoms were present or after they have been discharged from the hospital. Those with weaker immune systems have to wait 28 days. 

The program was to start Monday but was postponed to later in the week for final feasibility checks. 

Chile has tested more people than other Latin American countries, leading it to confirm 10,507 cases and 139 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The country has instituted a nationwide curfew, quarantines in the capital and other areas, and highway checkpoints to limit travel, according to the Post.