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Ottawa doctor says proof of immunity might be only way for fans to return to sports arenas

In the months and years following the attack on the World Trade Centre on Sept. 11, 2001, sports fans became used to body searches and metal detectors on their way into arenas and stadiums.

People accepted the measures as a way to keep everyone safe.

After the coronavirus pandemic is conquered and sports re-emerges, it’s likely a new layer of security will be initiated.

An Ottawa area doctor has already predicted what one additional level of security might look like.

“It would be effectively barcode enabled,” states Dr. Kumanan Wilson, an innovation advisor at Bruyère and a physician at the Ottawa Hospital. “Just like when you go to a sporting event [and] they scan your ticket, they are going to scan your barcode for proof of immunity.”

Until there is a vaccine, which appears to be many months away, Wilson says there could be an alternative.

He helped develop CANImmunize, an app that lets Canadians to track their immunization history.

“We’re going to need some kind of test that is proof of immunity to get people back into society,” Wilson told CBC Sports. “Otherwise, it’s a roll of the dice trying to open up these stadiums and large gatherings of people.”

He describes the initial risk to coronavirus as your body playing another team for the first time. The body may lose the first match, but it learns from the initial encounter and develops a memory and response, which is what antibodies are.

Wilson says using this model is more reliable than doing constant testing, which many leagues are proposing.

“Testing will clear you at that moment in time. The best ongoing proof will be that you have antibodies in your blood.”

Wilson states the federal government in Canada and countries around the world need to create a standard definition of what immunity is.

Wilson says about half to three quarters of the population would need to develop immunity for the disease to stop spreading.

“Until then, we can’t have these mass gatherings. We can have smaller gatherings. We will allow society to go back to normal but in a muted way.”

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