Economic Recovery Hinges on Coronavirus Antibody Tests: That’s a Big Problem

  • Coronavirus antibody tests offer a potential way to restart the economy without fully eradicating Covid-19.
  • But questions about their accuracy and viability could throw a wrench in those plans.
  • For now, the only plausible way to return to life as normal is a vaccine– and that’s still years away.

The race to reopen the global economy is on. Policymakers around the world are looking for ways to restart business activity and avoid further damage without reigniting coronavirus outbreaks.

With the prospect of a vaccine looking unlikely for at least 18 months, efforts to return life to some form of normalcy hinge on one goal. Widespread antibody testing, which would allow people to know whether they’ve already been exposed to coronavirus.

If they have been, they’re likely immune and could return to work. The plan sounds bulletproof on paper, which might explain why it’s generated so much optimism. But in practice, sending thousands of supposedly immune people back to work is a lot harder than it sounds.

Coronavirus Antibody Tests Won’t Be Available Anytime Soon

Assuming an accurate antibody test is created, it would take time to deliver and administer those tests to the public. In the U.K., the potential use of antibody tests has been postponed until at least May. Even if that goal is reached, it will be some time before the tests are widely available.

And the government would have to work out a system by which to identify those who’ve been tested in order to allow them back into the public. It’s unclear how at-home tests would be administered in a way that would confirm a person indeed has antibodies.

Researchers Say An Accurate Covid-19 Antibody Test Doesn’t Exist

But even more important than timing is the issue of accuracy, which has proven to be a major stumbling block.

As it stands, there are no usable antibody tests available in any country. That’s because working out whether or not people are immune to a virus that isn’t fully…

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