Moscow: recovered volunteers invited to assist COVID-19 patients
Recovered volunteers: is it safe for them to contact infected COVID-19?
The Moscow government has invited those who have already had the virus to join forces with social volunteers and support people who are being treated in their homes. Doctors, however, have highlighted that it is not proven that those who have recovered are immune to the disease.
On 8 May Anastasia Rakova, Moscow’s deputy mayor for social development said that more than 270 Moscow residents who had recovered from COVID-19 had now chosen to join a team of social aid workers. They will undergo specific training at the ‘My Career’ centre, after which they will be able to work and support those currently infected with the disease in person.
Rakova stated that “those who have already had the disease are less at risk, meaning they are able to volunteer and help people who are still battling the illness without putting their own lives in danger”.
Doctors are, however, treating this with caution: “There is a lot of interest in the possibility of volunteering after having been infected, but we cannot give a definitive answer, we simply do not have the information we need”, said Igor Sokolov, a GP and commentator on Facebook. “There will unquestionably be some degree of immunity, but the level of protection it provides is still unknown… We can look at other coronaviruses and draw conclusions from more optimistic research. Personally, I think volunteers will be protected for at least two months. But again, there is no real information on the genetic variants of the virus, of which we know there are at least four”
It is possible, in theory, to catch coronavirus at least twice, if your immune response is in some way compromised or new strains of the virus appear, said Aleksandr Melnikov, Department Chief at the Russian Federal, Clinical and Scientific centre for ENT. “Although SARS-CoV-2 has not shown the same levels of variability as flu, the frequency of mutations (slight changes in the RNA structure) does not have directly influence the variability of the virus (appearance of new strains). So, we should continue to wait and only act after further information from virologists”, wrote Aleksandr Melnikov on his Facebook page.
Earlier, Maria van Kerkhoven, Head of WHO’s new diseases unit, has pointed out that the data on repeat coronavirus infections may be influenced by test results specifically on lung cells dying from the disease. Even after recovery dead cells remain in the body, which can lead to a positive test result when testing is repeated, said Maria van Kerkhoven.