MORE than two thirds of an area of of New York may be immune to coronavirus and avoid a second wave, scientists claim.
Test results from a clinic in Queens – branded “stunning” by experts – showed 68 per cent of patients had developed antibodies to Covid-19.
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The clinic is in the working-class neighbourhood of Corona, according to data from healthcare company CityMD.
At another clinic in Jackson Heights, Queens, 56 per cent tested positive for antibodies.
The next closest area with a higher “immunity rate” is the Italian province of Bergamo – once the country’s epicentre – at 57 per cent.
Across the Bronx, which has had New York City’s highest death rate from Covid-19, about 37 per cent of antibody tests were positive.
But at a clinic in Cobble Hill, a mostly white and wealthy area in Brooklyn, only 13 per cent of people tested positive, the report said.
It said the data suggests that some neighbourhoods were so exposed to the virus during the peak of the epidemic in March and April that they might have some protection during any second wave of Covid-19.
But also implies that wealthier areas could bear the brunt of another surge in infections this winter.
“Some communities might have herd immunity,” Dr Daniel Frogel, a senior vice president for operations at CityMD, told the New York Times.
The report suggests reasons Corona was badly hit may include household overcrowding, and high numbers of people working in bars, restaurants and manufacturing, which are seen as higher-risk jobs.
But virologists warned that the results may not be representative of the general population as the testing was carried out at urgent care centres.
They also cautioned that there was not enough data to make a conclusion on whether herd immunity had been reached.
Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, described the high positive rate in Corona “a stunning finding.”
But she warned it would be a mistake to base public health decisions off antibody rates across a population.
She told the NYT that the “magical number of 60 percent for herd immunity” assumes that everyone infected has complete protection from a second infection.
“But what about people with partial protection?” she asked. “They may not get sick, but they can get infected and pass it along.”
In the UK, experts have also warned that there is uncertainty over immunity to coronavirus among people exposed to the virus.
Several studies are ongoing to work out how long immunity may last for and at what level.
It is unclear whether people who have already had Covid-19 are able to contract it again and pass it on.
Researchers in Spain have found that people who suffer mild Covid-19 symptom may only carry antibody protection for a matter of weeks.
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The experts warned earlier this week that it could complicate the search for a vaccine.
They screened nearly 70,000 people and found that 14 per cent who tested positive for antibodies in the first round gave a negative result two months later.
The apparent disappearance of antibodies was mostly in those who had experienced very mild symptoms or were asymptomatic, they said.