A study carried out by Public Health England shows that those who have been infected with coronavirus in the past may show signs of immunity for months after. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get reinfected or pass the virus onto others.
Immunity lasting for at least five months
The study led by Prof Susan Hopkins showed that those who had already been infected with COVID-19 were linked with an 83% decrease in risk of reinfection compared to those who had never had the virus. And, this increased immunity has so far shown to last at least five months. Hopkins revealed that the findings were hopeful but researchers still don’t know how long this immunity may last outside of that time frame.
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.
The PHE study involved the observation of 21,000 of health care workers regularly testing them for both coronavirus infection as well as virus antibodies. From June to November, the observation showed that out of the health workers who had no antibodies, 318 had developed their first infection. Whereas, out of the 6,614 participants who did have coronavirus antibodies, only 44 of them were reinfected.
This is also just the first report from the study, which is set to continue for 12 months in order to further observe the timeframe of increased immunity. However, the already suspected ‘five-month’ protection could also suggest that those who were infected during the first wave may now be vulnerable to reinfection.
Continuing on, the study will also take into consideration the new, more contagious variants of the virus which were not included at the time of the first observation. PHE will also seek to evaluate the immune response for those who have had the coronavirus vaccine, which could provide even further immunity if they already have antibodies.
You can still pass the virus onto others
PHE also reiterated that the study does not mean those who have had the virus will have complete immunity. The study found that even with antibodies, the virus can still live in the throat and nose and can be passed onto others:
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.
This means that whether or not you have had the virus before, everyone should continue to stay indoors and abide by coronavirus health and safety regulations.