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30 Apr, 2020 13:52

‘Immunity’ with benefits? Germans worried as govt mulls IDs ‘making life easier’ for Covid-19 survivors

‘Immunity’ with benefits? Germans worried as govt mulls IDs ‘making life easier’ for Covid-19 survivors

Berlin is reportedly considering issuing IDs confirming the bearer is immune to Covid-19 and may have more freedom than the as-yet uninfected. It adds to debate on whether recovery from the virus protects humans from reinfection.

Germany's federal government has passed a bill that would allow for handing out “coronavirus immunity cards” to anyone who has recovered from – and thus developed enough antibodies against – the disease, according to Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, citing a copy of the document. 

The IDs, similar to a vaccination certificate, could make life easier "in many places," Health Minister Jens Spahn believes. Owners of the "immunity passports" will be afforded a chance to carry out certain activities more easily, he said, citing healthcare staff as an example.

While such a rationale looks legit at a glance, further passages of the bill suggest more intrusion. They refer to the Infection Protection Act, under which the state can forcefully send contagious people or those with "suspicious" symptoms into quarantine, or even bar them from entering certain public places.

The draft would also allow employers to learn about all the "transmittable diseases" of their staff, possibly including Covid-19. So far, this right has only applied to "diseases that can be prevented by vaccination." The plan, however, appears to be on hold because there is no reliable scientific data as to whether coronavirus immunity insures against catching the virus again. 

But online observers have already likened these sections to what had happened in Germany under the Nazi regime. One user suggested"sticking a [yellow] star to my right breast and sending me into an internment camp," while another netizen reminded readers that "curbing basic rights for a group of the population has already existed in Germany."

Others draw attention to the fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) warning against giving out such IDs. There's "no evidence" that people who recover from Covid-19 are protected from a second infection, it said, in the latest brief widely quoted by German Twitter commenters. 

Some of them pointed out that the measure would have the opposite effect. It will cause people "to get infected deliberately, in the hope that the course of the disease will go off lightly and that they will receive the special card," one opined

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Local politicians have been equally skeptical of the idea. "Under no circumstances should such data be misused or lead to discrimination," Ulrich Kelber, federal data protection commissioner, told Suddeutsche. Kordula Schulz-Asche, the Green Party speaker in charge of healthcare, called the plans "questionable."

Meanwhile, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, is set to trial a "digital immunity card" throughout the course of two or three weeks. Patients will have to use a mobile application to save the results of their Covid tests in an encrypted database; authorities and other concerned entities will then be able to digitally check the test status.

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