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Catalan authorities cool on idea of Covid-19 'immunity passport'

Government says issuing official document just "a possibility" in expert report for drawing up plan to lift coronavirus restrictions

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21 April 2020 07:52 PM

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ACN|Barcelona

When Quim Torra on Sunday unveiled the broad outlines of a report by medical experts on how to go about easing and lifting the coronavirus restrictions, the Catalan president said one of the measures being considered is introducing an 'immunity passport'.

However, it seems the Catalan authorities have begun pulling back from the idea of issuing an official document detailing the holder's Covid-19 immunity status and propensity for infection, saying that the 'immunity passport' is only "a possibility."

Speaking on Tuesday after a cabinet meeting, government spokeswoman, Meritxell Budó, said the report drawn up by a team led by infectious diseases expert Dr. Oriol Mitjà does not state an "explicit need" for the document but cites it as "a possibility among others."

Budó preferred to stress other recommendations in the report that advises a "gradual relaxation" of the coronavirus restrictions, such as a "partial" lifting of the quarantine measures for minors and senior citizens.

Mitjà's report, said the spokeswoman, argues for social distancing and taking into account where people live and their age when lifting quarantine restrictions, as well as warning about future outbreaks that could require a return to confinement measures.

Report stresses importance of testing and monitoring

The report also stresses the importance of testing for the disease and the monitoring of infected people through the StopCovid19 app. The experts also advise identifying cases of people who have had contact with infected individuals so they can be isolated.

One idea is to anonymously track willing individuals who have had contact with infected people via Bluetooth, as the experts say tracking is "useful" for detecting people with a "high risk of infection" so as to isolate them "early" and contain the spread of the virus.

The document now in the government's hands will serve as the basis for the definitive plan for easing and lifting the coronavirus restrictions to be drawn up by the Civil Protection authorities and presented to the Catalan cabinet at the end of the week.

However, the final plan will only come into force if the state authorities in Madrid endorse it, and Budó said on Tuesday that the government wants to work "in a coordinated and consensual way" with the Spanish Socialist government to avoid further outbreaks.

Expert complains about "incorrect leaks"

Meanwhile, Mitjà posted a message on Twitter on Tuesday referring to his report and complaining that "the media have been echoing incorrect leaks for two days." Yet, the press came to learn about the report through president Torra himself.

On Sunday, the president's office sent the media a document summarizing the recommendations of the group of experts, and Torra said he had included the 'immunity passport' in the information he discussed with Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez.

Concerts in 6-10 months, or 2 years

People in Catalonia will have to decide as a community whether or not to accept 'immunity passports' Mitjà said in an interview with Catalunya Ràdio on Wednesday morning.

Do we want to "have concerts quickly, in 6-10 months, or do we prefer the alternative of not having concerts for 2 years?" 

The scientist said the option "must be considered and has to be on the table," while acknowledging that the idea still needs to "ripen."

Mitjà indicated that the passport would be used especially at large events, because in other settings, such as in a university classroom, other measures such as taking temperatures could be implemented.

The return to some kind of normality will depend a lot, said Mitjà, on the ability to perform widespread screening and detect cases.

For large cultural or sporting events, he believes there are still "quite a few months" to go, but is more optimistic regarding tourism.

"We have to think that in the coming months the situation of the hospitality industry will be normalized, but it will take a long time to normalize events with large gatherings," he said.

 

 

 

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  • Catalan researcher Oriol Mitjà, on February 11, 2020 (by Jordi Pujolar)

  • Catalan researcher Oriol Mitjà, on February 11, 2020 (by Jordi Pujolar)

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