Q: What are these reports about a possible new "passport" that could be given to people who have had the Covid-19 virus and developed antibodies giving them potential immunity to reinfection?
A: It's known as an immunity passport and the term has been borrowed from Germany where around 100,000 people are being asked to provide blood samples.
The sample is tested for antibodies that would show if someone had the virus and recovered, dramatically reducing the odds of them becoming infected again.
Q: Is Ireland looking at these kind of tests?
A: Obviously those who have had a diagnosis test here and confirmed they had the virus already know they were positive. However, many others out there are likely to have had the virus and were unaware of it.
Dr Cillian de Gascun, of the National Virus Reference Laboratory in UCD, said yesterday it is planned to take blood samples from a lot of people here to determine how many developed these antibodies and never realised they had to virus in the first place because they has little or no symptoms.
Q: What is the value of this?
A: It would tell us more about the level of immunity to the virus in the population and this is important in the decisions behind the lifting of restrictions. Individuals would consent to giving the blood sample so they would get that personal information back.
Q: What is the benefit in knowing somebody had the virus?
A: In Germany and in the UK it is seen as valuable in getting people back to the workforce. It is very helpful to key workers such as health staff but it also could benefit the wider economy and help in the resumption of businesses and important services.
Q: How would the passport idea work?
A: It's just a term which would provide people with a certified assurance they had a form of immunity.
Everyone is learning a lot about the virus and there is still no absolute guarantee that a person could not get it twice, but the hope is that it is highly unlikely.
Q: How accurate are the tests?
A: In the UK the University of Oxford is in charge of evaluating antibody tests on behalf of the government. None trialled has yet proved to be accurate enough for mass use. But there is a lot of sharing of information on these tests between countries so it may be possible to find one that Irish labs can rely on.
The original idea in the UK was to make the kits available in pharmacies for home use. A person can take a blood sample and see the result at home but that has yet to materialise. A laboratory test would be the most reliable.
It is being reviewed by our National Public Health Emergency Team which hopes to take the best ideas from other countries.
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