This in turn could lead to a deadly second wave of infections, potentially forcing the government to introduce another lockdown, with all the disastrous economic and social fallout that would entail. Ministers have approached tech firms to discuss plans to develop an “immunity certificate” app, which would indicate whether someone had been tested for COVID-19 and had the antibodies for the lethal virus. However, behavioural scientists are worried that this could lead employers to only hire workers who have had the virus in the belief that they won’t fall ill again, thereby creating two classes of employee.
Those unable to find work because they tested negative for the disease would then be forced to either catch the disease or obtain false certificates on the black market, in order to secure a job.
The scientists’ fears were outlined in secret documents prepared by the Independent Scientific Influenza Pandemic Group (SPI-B) on April 13.
The group wrote: “If a test result is a requirement for a resumption of work, a range of strategies to “game” the system may arise.
“These include people deliberately seeking out infection or attempting to purchase a fake test result, commercial organisations selling unapproved tests, or approved tests becoming available through private organisations at prices that make them unavailable to most.”
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Ministers have approached tech firms to discuss plans to develop an “immunity certificate” app
The behavioural experts also warned that positive teats could give people a false sense of security about their chances of being re-infected with the killer virus.
As a result, if they were to once again develop coronavirus symptoms, they would not necessarily isolate themselves, increasing the risk of infecting others.
Scientists say that there is no such thing as total immunity and are concerned that any protection provided by antibodies could wane over time as the virus mutates.
Mass public testing is seen as one of the key conditions that must be met in order for the UK lockdown to be eased.
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Scientists are worried that this could lead employers to only hire workers who have had the virus
So far the government has struggled to find a reliable anti-body test that can be produced quickly in large numbers and used by the public.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that Britons may be unable to travel to some parts of Europe for their holidays once lockdown restrictions are eased, due to the government’s decision to use a different contact tracing app than several other EU countries.
The UK launched its app to trace coronavirus on Monday, which has been developed by NHSX , the digital arm of the NHS.
The government started testing the device on the Isle of Wight on Tuesday, as they step up their preparations to ease the curfew.
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Scientists say that there is no such thing as total immunity
Britons may be unable to travel to some parts of Europe for their holidays
The NHSX smart app works on a different system to the Apple and Google one being used by many European countries such as Germany and Austria.
The two devices are not compatible, which has led to fears that if contact tracing becomes mandatory for international travel, then UK citizens will be required to go into a 14 days quarantine on arrival.
The NHSX app operates through a centralised database system, whereas the Apple and Google app uses a decentralised platform.
When a person in the UK is suspected of having the coronavirus, their phone sends the information to a centralised database, which then passes on alerts to those they have been in contact with.
The Apple and Google app directly notifies the contacts of any COVID-19 infected person, avoiding the need to share that information with a third party.
The technology giants’ smart app is already in use in several European countries, that include Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Estonia and the Republic of Ireland.
Mass public testing is seen as one of the key conditions that must be met
Matthew Gould, the chief executive of NHSX, claimed that the centralised model has major benefits over its rival, as it will allow health authorities to identify “hotspots” in certain parts of the country and track symptoms more closely.
He insisted that the UK was “not going off in one direction and the rest of the world going off in another,” and said that health chiefs “won’t hesitate to change” tack if the app didn’t work.
Sir Jonathan Montgomery, a professor of healthcare law at UCL, said there were ways round the “technical problem”, and floated the idea of using health certificates to avoid the need for quarantine.