Health experts have suggested the introduction of a “Natural Certificate” for those domestic travellers who are unvaccinated but have recovered from Covid-19. They say that scientifically it is proven that there are rare chances that such people carry infection.
Many state governments in India have imposed conditions for outsiders to either carry a negative RTPR test or a vaccine certificate before entering the state.
For instance, the Arunachal Pradesh government has asked all prospective visitors to bring their vaccine certificates for entry into the state.
Similarly, the Maharashtra government has also imposed a similar condition on every traveller planning to visit Mumbai. On the other hand, States like Ladakh have made a negative RTPCR test mandatory for every tourist.
Even many countries have started asking for vaccine certificates from outside travellers. European countries have reportedly proposed to introduce a ‘Digital Green Certificate’ for safe and free movement during the pandemic within the EU.
“A Digital Green Certificate will be a proof that a person has been vaccinated against Covid-19, has received a negative test result or has recovered from Covid-19 that can be used across all EU Member States,” the proposal said.
The purpose of imposing these conditions on travellers is to contain the spread of the virus from one place to another. These governments are of the view that such conditions can prohibit the entry of a Covid-19 infected person in their respective states.
However, imposing such conditions by the state government discriminate those people who are naturally recovered from Covid-19 but decided to remain unvaccinated as they have developed natural antibodies against the virus.
Dr Sanjay Rai, Professor of Community Medicine, AIIMS, Delhi, said, “There is global evidence to show that naturally-recovered people are well-protected and the chances of transmission of infection from such people are very low.”
“In my view, naturally-recovered people should not require either RT-PCR test or vaccine certificate. In fact, I suggest that such people should be issued a special certificate, may be called a ‘natural certificate’ and it should be honoured like negative RT-PCR test or vaccine certificate,” Dr Rai said.
Experts believe that ‘natural certificate’ will be much more effective than a negative RTP test or a vaccine certificate as according to them a vaccinated person can very well carry infection from one place to another, however, there is a high probability that the virus will not cause any severe disease to that individual.
Dr Ishwar Gilada, Infectious Diseases expert and Secretary General of Organised Medicine Academic Guild, a federation of professional medical organization in India, agrees with Dr Rai that vaccines cannot be an effective tool to curb the spread of infection.
“Even an RT-PCR test can detect infection in only 60 to 70 per cent cases. Also, it is quite a burden on the pocket of an individual as it costs between Rs 500 to Rs 1000 per test,” Dr Gilada said.
“But if we keep doubting each and every strategy, there can be no end and life as well as livelihood will become static or standstill. Vaccination derived immunity can be second best to the one derived naturally (through Infection). In fact, giving credence to vaccination-based mobility can also act as an incentive to take the vaccine and will overcome vaccine hesitancy to some extent,” Dr Gilada added saying that the present conditions adopted by some of the states discriminate naturally-recovered persons.
Professor Gobardhan Das, an immunologist who is associated with the Special Centre for Molecular Medicine, Jawaharlal Nehru University, supports this view.
“Like vaccine certificate or a negative RT-PCR test, an unvaccinated Covid-19 recovered person can be asked to carry a doctor’s prescription which confirms that he had contracted the virus,” Prof Das.
Dr Gilada suggests one more addition to the list of conditions, ie, antibody test certificate.
“There are three categories of Covid-19 recovered people. First, those who were confirmed with RT-PCR test, second, who had symptoms and treated for Covid-19 but never underwent any test and third who remained asymptomatic. The number of people from the last two categories is in crores. Such people will have antibodies in their blood samples. So, I think antibody test report should also be given equal preference,” Dr Gilada added.