Italy has started screening doctors for signs of coronavirus immunity, but officials admit that the antibody tests may not work.
The northern regions of Veneto and Emilia-Romagna hope to issue ‘permits’ to return to work for people who prove immune.
The blood tests are designed to detect antibodies, the instruments the body makes to fight an infection and prevent it from returning.
But doctors admit it can take weeks to know if the tests are effective. Britain also has a keen eye for antibody testing, but the government says the studies examined so far have not proved reliable.
Medical workers like this – seen here who moved a coronavirus patient to a hospital in Milan yesterday – will be tested in Italy for signs of immunity
Mario Plebani from the University of Padua, who is conducting the tests in Veneto, said The times that 3,000 health workers had already been tested.
“We are still experimenting. Since we know that many doctors are infected, we will know that if this test shows that they do not have antibodies, it is not correct, ”he said.
Plebani said the tests looked for two types of antibodies: one that proves the patient is infected and a second that they are immune.
“Our tests show that the second appears 12 days after the first symptoms and remains strong for 35 days. We don’t know after that, ”he said.
Andrea Andrea Crisanti, a professor of virology at the same university, said that scientists “began to verify that these tests are effective.”
“I think we’ll have enough data in two weeks or a month to have some confidence,” he said.
A health professional wearing a blue protective suit and mask holds up a coronavirus test kit yesterday in Collegno near Turin
Luca Zaia, the regional governor of Veneto, said: “Some say they will work, others say they will not. It all has to be proven, but that’s how vaccines are made. ‘
Zaia said the ultimate aim would be to allow authorities to “license” individuals with proven immunity to return to work.
Thousands of doctors are infected in Italy and at least 94 doctors have died, according to a medical federation.
Italy plans to end the block after a slowdown in new infections, which rose by just 2.3 percent in yesterday’s figures. The 3,039 new cases were the least since March 13.
Officials have spoken openly of a “phase two” in which Italy is learning to “live with the virus” until a vaccine is developed, which is likely to last for at least months.
Germany has similarly talked about exempting people from the fence, suggesting that immunity doctors may need less protective equipment.
A coronavirus patient sits on a hospital bed in Turin wearing an appropriate snorkel mask while being treated by a nurse
In Britain, Professor John Newton of Public Health England said that antibody tests can be rolled out to “millions” of people once an effective test has been signed off.
Some manufacturers make tests that look like a pregnancy test and can answer within 10 minutes.
But Professor Newton warned that the tests will only work at their best 28 days after an infection.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the UK has ordered millions of antibody tests, but admits the tests studied so far are ‘not good enough’.
“We get the test results every day, I looked last night. But we don’t have any that are good enough yet, ”he said over the weekend.
“At the moment, the most important thing is to get out of this as soon as possible, that people follow the social distance rules.”
However, Mr. Hancock said 500 very accurate tests were performed every day in Porton Down, the British military laboratory.