- Fernando de Noronha, an archipelago off the coast of Brazil, is reopening to tourists on September 1.
- To visit, however, you'll need to prove you've already had COVID-19.
- Visitors must present either a positive COVID-19 test or antibody test taken no more than 20 days before their arrival.
- The CDC no longer advises against nonessential travel, though it warns that "travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19."
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
As countries reopen to tourists amid the coronavirus pandemic, some have banned people from certain countries entirely, made negative COVID-19 tests mandatory, or asked visitors to quarantine.
However, Fernando de Noronha, an archipelago off the coast of Brazil in the state of Pernambuco, has instituted a previously unseen requirement: To enter, you must prove that you have already had COVID-19.
According to a translated post on Pernambuco's government website, Fernando de Noronha, a national park and UNESCO world heritage site in its entirety, plans on reopening on September 1, but only to "tourists who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are already cured."
The website states that visitors will have to prove that they have had the coronavirus, and submit one of two tests taken more than 20 days before their arrival: a positive PCR virus test or a positive serology test, more commonly known as an antibody test.
A PCR test is a molecular test that shows whether you have an active coronavirus infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The 20-day limit means that those who have tested positive for the virus should have since recovered.
The antibody test checks to see whether your immune system has created coronavirus-specific antibodies to fight off the virus. The CDC states that "antibodies can take several days or weeks to develop after you have an infection and may stay in your blood for several weeks or more after recovery."
According to Stuff NZ, Guilherme Rocha, the archipelago's administrator, announced the move in a news conference and described it as the first step in Fernando de Noronha's reopening plans.
"In this first stage of reopening, only tourists who have already had COVID and have recovered and are immune to the disease will be authorized [since] they can neither transmit it nor be infected again," he said.
Why antibodies do not necessarily protect a person from getting and spreading the coronavirus
According to the CDC, "at this time researchers do not know if the presence of antibodies means that you are immune to the coronavirus in the future."
Business Insider's Aylin Woodward and Hilary Brueck wrote that there have been reported reinfections in Hong Kong, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
"You can get it again," Florian Krammer, a vaccine scientist and virus expert at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, previously told Business Insider.
According to Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, having antibodies may only protect you from reinfection for a short period of time.
"The evidence so far suggests that if you've been infected and recovered, then you're protected for some period of time," he told NBC. "We don't know how long, and we're going to find individual cases of people for whom that's not true."
According to Woodward, the latest research suggests that though antibodies may fade, people who have had COVID-19 may develop immunity via a T-cell response. So while there's some hope that previous infection provides some resilience the second time around, a positive antibody test is largely futile, especially since little is still known about how long immunity may last.
Brazil currently lays claim to the second-worst outbreak in the world, after the US
According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, Brazil has seen 3,862,311 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 120,828 related deaths at the time of writing — the second-worst outbreak in the world after the US. Fernando de Noronha has had 93 confirmed cases and no deaths as of August 30, per Reuters.
Fernando de Noronha has been closed to visitors since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. It reopened to locals with homes there as well as researchers in late July. The archipelago is home to one of the world's most beautiful beaches and is one of Brazil's most-visited tourist attractions.
It's worth noting that while the CDC no longer advises against nonessential travel, it does warn that "travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19."
Representatives for Pernambuco's government did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
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