Covid repeat infections explained by GP who clarifies why others evade virus completely


This week Labour leader Keir Starmer revealed he had caught Covid for a second time after an initial infection in October last year. Leading Northern Ireland GP Dr Alan Stout explained reinfection is possible and could be a reason why Covid statistics remain high

While some Brits dodge infection , others have suffered through several battles with Covid
While some Brits dodge infection , others have suffered through several battles with Covid

A leading GP has explained why some people face repeated bouts of Covid while others escape infection altogether.

Dr Alan Stout’s comments on reinfection come after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer shared that he tested positive for the second time this week after an initial infection in October 2021.

His comments were also made just hours before the Department of Health confirmed Covid has now killed more than 150,000 people in the UK.

However, new cases fell to a 10-day low on Saturday – with 146,390 testing positive in the past 24 hours.

It also marks the sixth occasion the former lawyer has isolated since the start of the pandemic, Belfast Live reports.

This week Labour leader Keir Starmer shared he has caught Covid for the second time

Dr Stout, who chairs the British Medical Association’s GP Committee in Northern Ireland, told the publication while some people seem immune to the virus, others can catch it repeatedly.

He confirmed people “can absolutely get Covid twice” which may explain why case numbers in Northern Ireland remain high.

Last week, Northern Irish regions – Derry City, Strabane, Fermanagh, Omagh, Mid Ulster were listed among the top five Covid hotspots, according to a collation of the most recent data available.

Infections quadrupled in the hardest-hit area, Derry City & Strabane, from the week leading up to Christmas Day to the seven days before January 1.

Yesterday, another 6,444 positive cases of Covid-19 were announced in Northern Ireland by the Department of Health.

No further deaths of patients who previously tested positive for the virus were recorded in the daily update.

On Friday morning, there were 402 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom 31 were in intensive care.

Northern Irish regions were among the top five hardest-hit Covid hotspots last week
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Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

Dr Stout told Belfast Live: “The vast majority of people we’re seeing in the daily figures will have had some sort of previous infection.

“Keir Starmer is a good example as what he will have now is almost certainly the Omicron variant and previously, he may well have had the Delta or Alpha variant.

“One of the difficulties with the variants is that having one of the previous ones doesn’t necessarily protect you from the next.

“That has become quite clear as the previous Delta infection we know now gives you virtually no protection or natural immunity from Omicron.

“That’s the simplest reason why people are contracting Covid twice – it’s down to the different variants.”

Leading GP Dr Alan Stout said reinfection may be a reason behind the current wave of record-breaking figures being recorded in the UK

While cases of people catching Covid-19 more than once have been reported throughout the pandemic, concern is growing as immunity wanes and new variants emerge.

Dr Stout added: “That’s why the booster has been so important for Omicron because we’ve known that the level of immunity given by the first two vaccine doses has started to wane.

“Hence the booster was giving that extra level of protection but it was actually giving protection above and beyond, which is then preventing people getting Omicron or certainly becoming seriously unwell with it.”

But Dr Stout said research around reinfections is still in its infancy.

He added: “That’s one of the things we’re learning as we go along and yet there is quite a lot of data and evidence around what protection people have, which then helps with the planning in terms of vaccination.

“One of the big things we don’t know is around any next variant.

“Equally while we know there will definitely be more variants, whether we get a more severe one or they become less and less severe with time and evolution is another significant possibility.”

Dr Stout said studies are yet to determine the exact nature of how Covid reinfections work
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Getty Images/iStockphoto)

With the unprecedented surge in Omicron and subsequent demand for testing, the capacity for PCR testing reached its limit this week.

The Department of Health is now advising people in Northern Ireland who get a positive lateral flow test that they will no longer need a PCR test to confirm that result.

Anyone who receives a positive lateral flow result must self-isolate immediately.

“That was quite a sensible change and dictated by the infection numbers as there just isn’t the capacity for everybody to get a PCR test,” Dr Stout added.

“The lateral flow, when it tests positive, is almost certainly an infection as you’ll have a very small number of false positives.

“Hence the need to get the PCR lessens but ideally and once the numbers start to drop again, we will be looking at confirming results on PCR at that point.”

People are also being urged to test regularly with lateral flow tests, particularly before they come into contact with others.

The Department of Health has said while there is currently a very high demand for lateral flow tests across Northern Ireland, there is no shortage of tests.

Dr Stout said: “That’s good and bad news. It’s bad clearly as we’re asking so many people to do so many lateral flows and you need the supply there to do that.

“But to have a short supply does indicate that people are doing them and that’s a good thing that the vast majority are following the recommendations.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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