Lockdown Extensions Loom: WHO Lowers Estimates of Immunity

Studies conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested that only a tiny proportion of the global population – not more than 2 to 3 percent – appear to have antibodies in the blood showing they have been infected with COVID-19.

This questions the rapid rollout of blood tests for coronavirus antibodies, widely heralded as crucial tools to assess the reach of the pandemic in countries like the United States, restart the economy, and reintegrate society.

The WHO director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at a media briefing in Geneva on Monday, said, “Easing restrictions is not the end of the epidemic in any country.

Ghebreyesus said ending the epidemic will require a sustained effort on the part of individuals, communities, and governments to continue suppressing and controlling this deadly virus. He advised countries to ensure they can detect, test, isolate, and care for every case, and trace every contact.

The WHO welcomes the accelerated development and validation of tests to detect COVID-19 antibodies, which it says are helping us to understand the extent of infection in the population.

Last Friday, April 17th, a study carried out in Santa Clara without peer review found that 50 to 85 times more people had been infected with the virus than official figures showed.

Santa Clara County had 1,094 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the time the study was carried out, but antibody tests suggest that between 48,000 and 81,000 people had been infected by early April, most of whom did not develop symptoms.

But even those high figures mean that within the whole population of the county, only 3% have been infected and have antibodies to the virus. A study in the Netherlands of 7,000 blood donors also found that just 3% had antibodies, according to The Guardian report.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, an American infectious diseases expert who is the WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said there is no evidence that the use of a serological test can show that an individual has immunity or is protected from reinfection. By this, it means lockdown extensions continue.

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