Chile to start controversial coronavirus immunity card system

Workers preparing to disinfect a bus station in Santiago, Chile, on April 16, 2020.
Workers preparing to disinfect a bus station in Santiago, Chile, on April 16, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

SANTIAGO (BLOOMBERG) - Chile plans to issue immunity cards for people that have recovered from coronavirus to signal they are no longer contagious and can return to work and their normal lives.

The government will start issuing the "Covid-19 cards" from next Monday (April 20), Health Minister Jaime Manalich told reporters, setting out a strict set of criteria for the new permits.

The measure may prove controversial though as some of the cards will be based on the presence of antibodies to the virus, for which countries have struggled to mass produce reliable tests.

Mr Manalich said the government would ensure that "with a very high probability" that people with the cards were no longer contagious.

There is also concern that the new system will lead to a black market for the cards.

Health authorities "have to make decisions based on probabilities that are very close to being an absolute certainty", Mr Manalich said.

Patients that have had their immune systems compromised, such as cancer patients, will have to wait 28 days without symptoms to apply for the cards.

Health workers will be tested every 15 days to apply.

As of Wednesday (April 15), Chile had 8,807 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 105 fatalities.

It has been leading testing in South America with more than 90,000 tests, after Peru.