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Immunity Passes Explained: Should We Worry About Privacy? – CoinDesk

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As governments look to lift restrictive measures put in place for the coronavirus, one genre of proposals is to give people who have recovered from COVID-19 a digital immunity pass, passport or certificate. It goes by many names, but the idea is the same. It would say you’re immune and no longer spreading the virus, letting people get back to work, enter shops and engage in the physical world again ahead of the rest of the population.

That sounds like a good idea.

It makes sense. The world can’t continue to deal with the social and economic costs of this magnitude for an extended period of time. People want to get back to their lives. But doing so in a normal way right now isn’t possible. Immunity certificates, based on more widespread testing, would crack the door to a pseudo-normal world ajar, something that appeals to lawmakers. 

“Everyone staying home is just a very blunt measure. That’s what you say when you’ve got really nothing else,” Emily Gurley, a scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told NPR regarding immunity tests. “Being able to test folks is really the linchpin in getting beyond what we’re doing now.”

So antibodies mean you’re immune? 

Scientists are studying whether people who recover from the virus possess antibodies that may confer immunity for a period of time. The idea is a person would get tested, receive the results of the test and, if they were found to have antibodies, they would be issued a QR code or other digital pass/document that could be scanned or reviewed on their smartphone. That pass would have been issued by a health agency, be timestamped and authenticated as accurate.

Several countries are implementing or close to implementing immunity passes now. Chile’s passes, for example, exempt those who have recovered from COVID-19 or tested positive for the presence of antibodies, from quarantining and lets them return to work, The Washington Post reported. Residents of Chile can apply for these passes if they haven’t shown symptoms for the disease and they’re willing to be tested.

See also: Privacy Advocates Are Sounding Alarms Over Coronavirus Surveillance

Germany and the United Kingdom are in the process of pursuing widespread antibody testing, and states in the U.S. are considering similar measures, which is a precursor to issuing passes. China enforced a more draconian form of health pass, which greatly curtailed movement for citizens based on whether their pass was colored green, yellow or red. The color was based on location tracking, travel history and health information, and has been criticized for the lack of transparency as to why certain people are branded with a certain color. 

Immunity passes are likely to be based solely on testing, rather than the various factors that influence China’s system. 

So what’s the problem?

First, there’s a lack of testing being done, which is the basis for any tracing or passport system. The U.S. is  struggling with testing even as thousands of tests sit unused in labs. The Food and Drug Administration has relaxed accuracy standards regarding tests as it rushes to get them to the public, but there are concerns regarding the prevalence of false negatives. False negatives are people who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 but test negative for the virus, sometimes incorrectly. Just recently, a panel of more than 45 scientists, health experts and economists estimated the U.S. would need to administer 20 million tests every day by mid-summer to open the economy in a safe way. 

“In a situation where the prevalence of people with antibodies in the population is quite low – probably no more than around 10 percent of people – even if you’ve got a highly, highly specific test, it is still going to give you quite a lot of false positives,” Robert West, a health psychologist at the University College London told Wired. “That means the government cannot say to people, ‘Because you’ve got this test result, you’ve got the antibodies.’”

Then there’s the question of how long immunity might last. Scientists can’t tell us for certain. Still, immunity passports may be the best-worst option for getting us back to work. 

Aren‘t there privacy problems here? 

Maybe. There are still pressing questions regarding how people’s medical data will be protected when it comes to issuing a digital immunity pass, how they will be verified and whether creating essentially two classes of people, one of which would have more freedoms and would disproportionality impact vulnerable populations. 

Countries continue to grapple with implementing contact tracing yet are still considering reopening in the near future. These passes will play a key role in letting people go back to work and businesses to open again, even as debates continue about how they’re executed and their unintended consequences.

See also: European Contact Tracing Consortium Faces Wave of Defections Over Privacy

For example, there could be black markets that arise for spoofed certificates, or false ones, that let people who desperately need to go back to work do so. Another concern is whether a record of all people who have passes is kept in a centralized database that could be co-opted for surveillance or hacked for their personal information. Similarly, clear timelines for data storage relating to these passes would need to be clear, lest they continue to exist indefinitely.

For now, in the U.S. at least, these passes may not be mandatory. But, in effect, they could become compulsory. If a private business said people without such a digital certificate couldn’t enter, and such practices became widespread, a pass would essentially become mandatory in practice if not name. There are also concerns about access to digital passes. While 81 percent of Americans have a smartphone, that leaves millions of people who don’t have one. People without phones might have to procure paper passes, which also would have to be made secure. 

These are questions that will need to be answered in the coming weeks and months as the world continues to move through the trajectory of this pandemic.

Disclosure Read More

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Small percentage of Ottawa residents infected with COVID-19: Ottawa Public Health – CTV News Ottawa

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OTTAWA —
Ottawa Public Health is reminding residents that COVID-19 is still circulating in our community, and everyone needs to do their part to help limit the spread of the virus.  

Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brent Moloughney says Ottawa Public Health estimates approximately one per cent of Ottawa residents have been infected with novel coronavirus.

“Through everyone’s actions, we’ve been successful in reducing the number of infections that would have otherwise occurred,” said Dr. Moloughney.

“Overall, we estimate that only a small percentage of Ottawans have been infected with COVID so far, perhaps as low as one per cent but perhaps a bit higher.”

As of Thursday, Ottawa Public Health reported 1,985 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, including 248 deaths.

“Regardless of the specific number through, the key implication is that the vast majority of us remain susceptible to infection,” said Dr. Moloughney, noting the new cases reported daily show COVID-19 is still circulating in the community.

“In order to track cases within Ottawa and to limit transmission, please seek testing if you think you may be infected with the virus.”

The Ontario Government announced in May that asymptomatic residents of Ontario could present for COVID-19 testing.  Ottawa Public Health says residents can visit the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena and the two COVID-19 care clinics for testing.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches says the data from the expanded testing criteria has been “educational” as more people present for COVID-19 testing.

“What we’ve found was as the number of people tested grew, we didn’t find a lot more cases. That per cent positivity hasn’t grown,” said Dr. Etches.

“It’s telling us that population out there without symptoms, the general population, may not be where we’re going to find most of our cases.”

The medical officer of health says Ottawa Public Health and health officials in eastern Ontario will test all staff in long-term care homes twice in June.  That would be 8,000 COVID-19 tests this month.

“Our goal is to use all of the testing capacity we have,” said Dr. Etches, adding Ottawa Public Health will look to “test in a smart way”, including workplaces and congregate care settings.

Limit your contacts

With warm weather in the forecast for the weekend, Ottawa Public Health is reminding people to practice physical distancing and limit interactions with people outside your household.

“As more activities become possible, the new normal will be to consider how risky an activity is and how you can reduce the risk of transmission for yourself, your family and others,” said Dr. Moloughney.

“In general, outdoor activities are less risky than indoor ones. The more people that are involved and the closer the contact, the higher the risk.”

Ottawa Public Health has issued a graphic looking at “least safe options” and “safer options” for activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Coronavirus: Two new cases in Winnipeg Friday brings total to 300 – Globalnews.ca

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This story will be updated as the press conference continues.

Two new cases of the novel coronavirus were announced Friday, both of them in Winnipeg.

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The latest cases include one man in his 20s, and another in his 30s, according to the province. One is a truck driver, and the other man was a close contact.

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As of Thursday an additional 671 laboratory tests for the virus were performed. The total number of tests performed since early February is now 47,372.

“Each Manitoban is going to have to decide the level of risk they’re going to take [going forward],” said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial health officer.

But people who are sick should still stay home, he said.

Roussin added workplaces need to look at their policies and practices when it comes to staying home because they’re ill.

“We need to make it easy as possible … the alternative is people come to work sick.”

Lanette Siragusa reminded people that hospitals and health care centres will start allowing a designated visitor, but some may not start until Monday or later.

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Shared Health’s Chief Nursing Officer said people should call before they go.


READ MORE:
Safety officers heading to Manitoba beaches amid COVID-19, no new cases reported Thursday

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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COVID-19 roundup: new case reported in Owen Sound Friday – Owen Sound Sun Times

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This undated transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like.

Photo supplied

One new case of COVID-19 was reported in the region Friday according to the Grey Bruce Health Unit’s daily situation report.

The most recent case was reported in Owen Sound, according to the health unit’s data.

Eighty-eight of the region’s 98 total cases have recovered. None of the active cases are currently hospitalized, and no deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 locally.

Twenty-four cases of the disease have been reported in healthcare workers. No local long-term care or retirement homes are currently under a declared COVID-19 outbreak.

* * *

The Grey Bruce Health Unit is recommending people use virtual forms of participation such as signing petitions, donating to groups, and learning more about racism and how to address it as anti-racism protests spread throughout the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Racism is a public health issue. Racism, in its many forms, profoundly impacts the health and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities,” said a Grey Bruce Health Unit news release. “We recognize that, at this time, people may want to gather to march and express themselves with respect to supporting efforts to end racism.”

The release did list several considerations for people who must participate in any local rallies including spreading out to maintain proper physical distancing, staying outside, wearing a face covering, and bringing hand sanitizer.

The health unit is asking older adults, the immunocompromised, and those living with vulnerable people who are more susceptible to serious complications should they contract COVID-19, to reconsider the need to be present in a large crowd.

“The Grey Bruce Health Unit has the responsibility to identify risk associated with any public health threat, including COVID-19. We remind people that gatherings increase the risk of transmission of disease,” the release said.

* * *

The Grey Bruce Health Unit is encouraging all municipalities to adopt bylaws restricting the use of beach and waterfront spaces after rescinding the beach closure order enacted on May 14.

However, municipalities in Grey-Bruce can now open beaches fully, allow only walk-through access, or maintain a full closure of the beach.

In a bulletin on their website the health unit recommends people check with their local municipality to confirm the status of the beach, waterfront, and river access points before planning to use them.

Even if some public waterfront spaces do reopen, amenities such as public washrooms, change rooms, and water refill stations may still be closed, a health unit media release explained. Therefore, the health unit is recommending beachgoers bring their own water jug with a spigot, soap and paper towels to wash their hands – or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Public health is recommending people wear a non-medical face mask or face covering in places where proper physical distancing measures cannot be controlled. They’re also recommending people bring reusable water bottles and individual containers for food to prevent sharing, and their own garbage bags.

Public health is asking residents to be patient with visitors and tourists who do not know the local guidance information and to politely inform them what is allowed at local beaches, and the proper guidelines to follow.

“We all want to have an enjoyable summer on our beautiful beaches in the safest and most sustainable way possible. We’re in this together,” the bulletin reads.

* * *

Community lab collections at South Bruce Grey Health Centre’s Chesley and Durham sites will resume on Monday.

Appointments will be required to ensure proper physical distancing for patient safety. Patients can begin booking appointments for June 15 and beyond by calling Patient Registration for Chesley (519-363-2340) or Durham (519-369-2340) between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

People are asked to have a health card and lab requisition ready when calling. A high volume of calls is expected and some waiting may be necessary, according to an SBGHC media release.

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