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PM Boris Johnson: “this pandemic is not over” and “continues to carry risks"
England and Scotland are set to lift COVID-19 restrictions on the 19th of July 2021 with rest of the UK to follow afterwards. However, lockdown-easing comes with caution with officials urging the use of NHS COVID passes. With the UK Prime Minister and the Chief Executive of UK Health Security Agency alluding to immunity status and antibody testing as important considerations for managing risks, Abingdon Health can see challenges in the UK’s COVID pass system.
PM Boris Johnson urged caution and stated, “this pandemic is not over” and “continues to carry risks for you and your family. We cannot simple revert instantly from Monday 19th of July  to life as it was before COVID”. 1
“As a matter of social responsibility, we’re urging nightclubs and other venues with large crowds to make use of the NHS COVID Pass, which shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or natural immunity as a means of entry.”2
Urging caution and encouraging businesses and individuals to use COVID passes certainly indicates a shift in responsibility away from the government.
A missing link in COVID passport strategies
Proving ‘natural immunity’ and a successful response to vaccination needs careful consideration. An app or document recording vaccination and antigen test results, the second of which are self-certified, does not necessarily mean someone has produced the desired immune response following infection or vaccination.
It is well documented across global media outlets that COVID-19 vaccines have different efficacy ratings. Also, many factors can contribute to substantial variations in immune response.3 And considering 1 in 3 people show no COVID-19 symptoms,4 determining whose body has triggered the right immune response is important. For example, are IgG neutralising antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein present?
Confirming the presence of SARS-CoV-2 IgG anti-spike antibodies, which neutralise the virus’ ability to penetrate and infect human cells, is powerful for interpreting an individual’s and a population’s immunity status.
Helping normal life resume
The UK is easing COVID-19 restrictions on 19th July with the aim of boosting the economy. Caution has already been cast over the strategy but an integrated approach using all available tools can help manage the process. Adding testing for SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies to the spike protein would strengthen the data included in any COVID passport system in support of the aims of easing lockdowns.
Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of UK Health Security Agency, gave feedback during the UK Government’s Public Accounts Committee discussing the importance of antibody testing in the near future. Saying, “antibody testing is likely to come back” because “it’s important that we understand who has had a good response”. 5 Dr Harries’ comments shed light on the importance of antibody-presence in determining a successful immune response post-vaccination, or indeed infection or both
Considering Boris Johnson’s ‘social responsibility’ comment. With antibody testing, giving an individual the ability to know their antibody status helps them make informed decisions about movement and provides organisations with an overview of workforce or crowd immunity status.
The discussion about COVID passports is gathering momentum the world over. For example, President Macron has ordered all health workers in France to get vaccinated and has announced special COVID passes with similar obtainment eligibility criteria as in the UK.6 Adding IgG neutralising antibody testing to the criteria for obtaining a COVID pass, will enhance the usefulness of the data and allow individuals to make an informed decision on what they do and the precautions they take based on their immunity status?
Global governments have the task of securing their economic futures and the livelihoods of individuals alongside protecting public health: the decision when to lift restrictions is not an easy one. However, many tools are available to manage lockdown-easing as efficiently as possible.
The impact of COVID-19 will linger, and a one size fits all approach to combating COVID-19 will not prevail. The proposed COVID pass models in UK and France would be enhanced with the addition of a vital tool: antibody tests. Abingdon Health feels COVID-19 IgG antibody tests are important for creating informed decisions on minimising risks and helping people return to work, attend sporting events or concerts, attend higher colleges and universities or travel abroad safely.
As part of UK-Rapid Test Consortium, Abingdon Health is proud to support antibody testing with AbC-19TM Rapid Test, a rapid test for the on-site detection of IgG antibodies to the virus’ spike protein.