Can you catch Covid twice? Professor explains how quickly you could be re-infected

Coronavirus cases are continuing to rise across the UK. In England nearly reached a record high on Friday, with around one in 16 people in private households in England – or 3.5 million people – likely to have had Covid-19 in the week to March 19.

This is up from one in 20, or 2.7 million people, in the previous week and is the third week in a row that infections are estimated to have risen. Professor Sir Chris Whitty said the new Omicron variant has “topped out” in Scotland – but is still predicted to have a “significant wave” in England.

He told the Science of Covid conference that he expects the ‘stealth’ BA.2 variant to reappear over autumn and winter unless a new Covid variant takes its place. He warned: “There will be multiple new variants and we may well get ones that are significantly vaccine-escaping, in which case, we’re in a very different place.”

Readmore: Coronavirus rates increase across Greater Manchester as region records almost 18,000 new weekly cases

In the early days of the pandemic, it was extremely rare to hear of people catching Covid twice. But that’s simply not the case anymore, reports the BBC, especially since the Omicron variant emerged in November.

The BBC reported that the rates of re-infection have been about 10 times higher this year compared with rates seen earlier in the pandemic. So, just how soon could you catch Covid again, after already being infected?

Professor of molecular medicine at the University of Kent Martin Michaelis explained that typically, reinfections are only considered if ‘there is a time gap of at least 90 days between the initial infection and the reinfection.’

Is there evidence that someone who has caught omicron can be reinfected?

Professor Michaelis told Wales Online that ‘we know people who had Covid in the past can be reinfected,’ and that there are two main reasons for this: “The first one is that immune protection provided by the virus wanes over time. This means that Although we are protected for a while after an infection, we will eventually become vulnerable to infection again.

“Some common cold coronaviruses have been shown to be able to infect the same person twice within 12 months. The second reason is that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, evolves and that so-called ‘immune escape’ variants emerge that are better at infecting people who had previously been infected with another variant (or vaccinated). In this context, the Omicron variant is a particularly effective ‘escape variant’.”

Unfortunately, the original strain of Omicron is now been replaced by a different form which leads to even more uncertainty but also likely more reinfections.

Professor Michaelis added: “It is still difficult to tell to which extent an Omicron infection protects from another variant, but there seems to be at least some level of cross-protection. Moreover, there are now different Omicron sub-variants circulating.

“The original Omicron variant BA.1 seems to be in the process of being replaced by BA.2.” I have added that ‘the more variants’ that are circulating at the time, ‘the more likely it is that we see reinfections in a short time frame.’

How soon could you catch Covid again?

This is likely to be affected by the severity of the initial infection. “In patients with very mild Omicron disease that does not result in significant immune protection, said Professor Michaelis. “Reinfections may be possible within a short time such as a few months.”

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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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