Delta Air Lines promises to be at the “forefront” of any changes in commercial air travel and has already expressed a willingness to require immunity passports to travel.
Earlier this week Delta reported a first quarter loss of $534 million, its first loss in five years. During that presentation, Delta CEO Ed Bastian addressed the possibility of immunity passports:
“We will make whatever changes to the business model that will be necessary. If it turns out immunity passports will be a new form… You think about everything that came out of 9/11 with TSA and homeland security and new public agencies. Could there be a new public health agency coming out that requires a new passport to travel? We’ll be on the forefront of all those advances.”
Immunity passports are hardly a new invention of this era. Like a vaccination card, they have been used in the past to restrict movement. Chile is already in the process of issuing immunity passports to those who have contracted then recovered from COVID-19. These passports are also under consideration in several European nations.
The Problem With Immunity Passports
So much about COVID-19 remains unknown. In the context of immunity, it is not at all clear yet that those who have had it will not get it again.
From the World Health Organization (WHO):
“Some governments have suggested that the detection of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could serve as the basis for an ‘immunity passport’ or ‘risk-free certificate’ that would enable individuals to travel or to return to work assuming that they are protected against re-infection. There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.”
WHO added that about 2% of patients who “beat” COVID-19 in South Korea have relapsed. Other data points are emerging.
In the United States, the Infectious Diseases Society of America also says that it is way too soon to start issuing immunity passports:
A5 pt1. We do not know enough about the new coronavirus yet to determine whether survivors are really immune. COVID-19 is such a new disease that there is no solid data on the immunity of survivors. #AskReuters https://t.co/tTwm5A2PgX
— IDSA (@IDSAInfo) April 22, 2020
There’s other problems as well. Problems of class, counterfeit, and other fraud. And this…if only those who have built up immunities can travel, I’d isolate myself for a few weeks, infect myself with the virus, and accept the attendant consequences that accompany it before accepting a long-term moratorium on how I make a living (not through this blog, but my other business). That’s a sobering thought…
Delta is ready to embrace immunity passports. While I understand Delta’s willingness to embrace whatever measures would be necessary to return passengers to the air, there is a lot more testing that should be performed before we even have a talk about the moral ramifications of COVID-19 immunity passports.