Amidst the Holy Grail search for an effective exit strategy from the coronavirus lockdown, several countries, including the UK among them, have mooted the idea of issuing immunity certificates. In effect, these would be documents to be issued to people who have had, and recovered from, the virus, and therefore have antibodies and, it is assumed, some element of immunity from contracting it again. People in possession of immunity certificates would be permitted to return to work, in order to kick-start the economy.
For me, this sounds alarm bells. In a dystopian scenario, it has the potential for creating a new ‘them and us’ split, where enough divisions already exist. It could create an Apartheid between coronavirus survivors and coronavirus innocents, with one group allowed the benefits of a pre-COVID-19 world––work, socialising, travel––while the other group remain heavily restricted in their activities and movements. Sound familiar? It has dangerous resonances of less enlightened times. In this kind of scenario, I could imagine a situation where people would actively attempt to contract the virus in order to improve their social status. Russian Roulette-style coronavirus parties would resurrect the misguided thinking of the 1960s’ measles parties; infections would rise, not fall.
Until a vaccine is developed, there will be no easy route out of this crisis, but I hope that any quick fixes, which might potentially stigmatise one group of people over another, can be avoided.
© E. C. Glendenny
Travel writer, E. C. Glendenny, is currently travelling in her memories rather than on an immunity passport.