Previous Covid infection could give immunity for 5 months - but you can still transmit the virus

Thursday, 14th January 2021, 9:35 am
Updated Thursday, 14th January 2021, 9:36 am

Most people who have had Covid are protected from getting the virus again for at least several months, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by Public Health England (PHE), found that antibodies from past coronavirus infections provide 83 per cent protection for a period of at least five months.

From June to November 2020, nearly 21,000 healthcare workers across the UK were regularly tested to see whether they currently had coronavirus or had had it previously.

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Out of those who had no antibodies to the virus, which suggests they had never had it, the tests indicated that 318 developed potential new infections within this timeframe.

Among the 6,614 participants who did have antibodies, this figure was 44.

The scientists found that those who have previously had Covid can become reinfected, with early evidence suggesting that a small number of people with antibodies may still be able to carry and transmit coronavirus.

‘Now more than ever it is vital we all stay at home to protect our health service and save lives’

Professor Susan Hopkins, strategic response director for coronavirus at PHE, said that although some who have had the virus may be highly unlikely to develop a severe infection again, it’s still important to follow the “stay at home” message, as they could still transmit the virus to others.

Prof Hopkins said: “We now know that most of those who have had the virus, and developed antibodies, are protected from reinfection.

"But this is not total and we do not yet know how long protection lasts. Crucially, we believe people may still be able to pass the virus on.

"This means even if you believe you already had the disease and are protected, you can be reassured it is highly unlikely you will develop severe infections but there is still a risk that you could acquire an infection and transmit to others.

"Now more than ever it is vital we all stay at home to protect our health service and save lives."

Scientists will now continue to monitor the healthcare workers for a period of 12 months to see how long immunity lasts. They will also look at cases with the new variant, as this was not widespread at the time of the first study, as well as looking at the immunity of participants who receive the Covid vaccine.