How quickly can you get Covid again? When you can catch coronavirus after having it and reinfection explained

Covid rates are rising across the UK, and chances are you know someone who has had it.

It is getting harder and harder to find someone who hasn’t had it at least once, and many will have reported suffering multiple cases.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Can you catch Covid more than once?

Yes you can get Covid multiple times, particularly now there have been so many different variants that have become dominant at different times.

Analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) published in December showed that around one in 10 people with the Omicron variant in England had previously contracted Covid-19.

UK studies into Omicron have suggested that previous Covid infection provides poor protection against the new strain.

Researchers at Imperial College London found that the Omicron variant largely evades immunity from past Covid infection or two vaccine doses.

How quickly can you get reinfected?

Research has shown that for people who recover from Covid-19, immunity can last for about three months to several years.

However, it is not impossible that some people could get reinfected sooner than this.

Dr William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center: “There are some people who have the notion that after you’ve gotten a natural infection, you will be permanently protected against Covid-19 as if this were measles .

“But the two viruses that cause these infections are very, very different. The coronavirus protection wanes naturally after a period of time. “

An October 2021 study by the Yale School of Public Health reported that unvaccinated people should have immunity against reinfection for between three and 61 months.

However, this data was recorded and published before the emergence of the Omicron variant.

What officially counts as reinfection?

More than one positive test for any variant of Covid-19 within a 90-day time period are considered to be part of the same case episode, and if you test positive a matter of weeks after first getting a positive test it is more likely this is from the residual effects of the initial infection.

Positive tests outside the 90-day period are now counted as a reinfection.

Covid rates are increasing (Photo: Justin Tallis / AFP / Getty)

This is a change to the previous UKHSA methodology, by which people who tested positive for Covid-19 were counted only once in case numbers published on the daily dashboard, when they first tested positive.

Repeat positive tests were not included.

Why is reinfection so common?

UK studies into Omicron have suggested that previous Covid infection provides poor protection against the new strain.

Researchers at Imperial College London found that the Omicron variant largely evades immunity from past Covid infection or two vaccine doses.

A study of all the PCR test-confirmed Covid cases in England between 29 November and 11 December concluded that patients who had already contracted coronavirus only had around 19 per cent protection against Omicron.

The figure was roughly in line with two doses of a Covid vaccine, which scientists estimated were as much as 20 per cent effective against the new variant.

Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, said: “This study provides further evidence of the very substantial extent to which Omicron can evade prior immunity given by both infection or vaccination.”

Ministers noted that the data showed the importance of the booster jab, which is thought to provide protection against around 55 to 80 per cent of symptomatic cases.

More from Health

What are the Covid rates?

As of 18 March, hospital admissions across the UK are up 24.8 per cent week-on-week, although the number of patients in intensive care remains low.

The number of people testing positive has gone up by 38.1 per cent in seven days.

In total, 163,511 have died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus.

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