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Infection gives immunity for several months

January 14, 2021

The UK has banned travel from South America and Portugal over a new COVID variant in Brazil. Meanwhile, a new study has shown temporary immunity in recovered COVID patients. Follow DW for the latest.

Medical staff in England wearing full personal protective equipment, including a face mask, long apron, and gloves
Tens of thousands of healthcare workers in Britain, tested regularly since June, were the subjects of the studyImage: Steve Parsons/Getty Images

People who have had COVID-19 are highly likely to have considerable immunity to it for at least five months, a UK study of health care employees has found.

However, the research showed there was still evidence that those with antibodies may still be able to carry and spread the virus.

Researchers at Public Health England (PHE) showed that reinfections in people who have COVID-19 antibodies from a past infection are rare. They found only 44 cases among 6,614 previously infected individuals.

However, experts warned that the findings meant that those who contracted the disease in the first wave of the pandemic — in the early months of 2020 — could now be vulnerable to catching it again.

They also warned that people with so-called "natural immunity" through having had the disease may still be able carry it in their nose and throat and could unwittingly pass it on.

"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," said Susan Hopkins, co-leader of the research, known as the SIREN study.

"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 you could acquire an infection and transmit to others."

The study involved tens of thousands of health care workers in Britain who have been tested regularly since June.


The United Kingdom has announced a travel ban to South America, Panama, Cape Verde and Portugal after a new COVID variant was detected in Brazil. The ban will go into effect on Friday at 4 a.m. GMT. 

Portugal was included on the list given its strong travel links with Brazil. There will be an exception for drivers transporting essential goods to the UK from Portugal.

The ban does also not apply to British or Irish citizens returning from the listed countries. However, returnees must self-isolate with their households for 10 days. 

Portugal has ordered a strict nationwide lockdown, similar to the one enacted last year.

People will only be allowed to leave their homes for shopping, work, and medical appointments. The regulation will come into effect on Friday.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa told broadcaster RTP that it will likely last for one month but will be reviewed in 15 days.

"Don’t think about the exception, think about the rule. And the rule is easy: we all have to stay home," said Costa.

Germany's economy contracted by 5%, according to figures from the country's Statistics Office. Analysts had forecast that Europe's biggest economy would shrink by 5.1% last year, after growing by 0.6% in 2019.

Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer offered up to 10,000 soldiers to carry out COVID-19 tests in care homes.

"The Bundeswehr (army) is ready to assist at short notice with up to 10,000 men and women in old people's homes and nursing homes if we are called upon," a spokesman for Kramp-Karrenbauer told AFP news agency.

The soldiers would receive training from manufacturers to carry out rapid tests in order to protect those most at risk and ease pressure on care home staff.

The moves come as Germany saw another record high in daily coronavirus-related deaths. The Robert Koch Institute, the country's public health agency for infectious diseases, on Thursday reported 1,244 deaths and 25,164 new infections in the last 24 hours.

Germany – disappointing progress

A meat-processing plant in Frechen, a town near Cologne, Germany, has reported 55 employees have been infected with COVID-19.

The first infection was recorded on December 28, according to the Rhine-Erft district. Several employees were then tested in their shared accommodation.

Several large-scale outbreaks were reported last summer at various meat processing plants across Germany, prompting outrage at the squalid work conditions in the industry that relies heavily on foreign workers.

Spain registered a record number of daily cases on Wednesday. The country recorded 38,869 new cases and 195 deaths.

Carolina Darias, minister for territorial policy and civil service said the country was in a situation of "very high risk, extreme risk."

Health Minister Salvador Illa said, "the pressure is continuing to rise in hospitals," and said the number of people getting tested was also increasing.

The Vatican began its vaccination drive for workers and residents on Wednesday. It said health care workers, security personnel, and the elderly would be first in line.

Both Pope Francis, 84, and his predecessor, former pope Benedict XVI, 93, received the coronavirus vaccine, the Vatican said on Thursday.

There have been several outbreaks in the Vatican in recent months, including among the Swiss Guard.


South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Wednesday the African Union (AU) secured a provisional 270 million vaccine doses in a deal aimed to benefit countries unable to finance their own immunization campaigns.

"As a result of our own efforts we have so far secured a commitment of a provisional amount of 270 million vaccines from three major suppliers: Pfizer, AstraZeneca (through Serum Institute of India), and Johnson & Johnson," he said.

These doses will complement the 600 million doses of vaccine secured via the COVAX vaccination program.

The new purchases with the doses from the COVAX program will provide Africa with half of the vaccines that it requires, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The continent seeks to vaccinate about 780 million people, representing some 60% of its population of 1.3 billion.

This will require 1.5 billion doses, assuming two doses per person, at an estimated total cost of some $10 billion, the Africa CDC said.

Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi said he has applied to access COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX distribution scheme.

"We have applied to the COVAX program and we expect to get the vaccine to vaccinate 20% of vulnerable people," said Nyusi in an address to the nation.

Health Minister Armindo Tiago said in an interview with state broadcaster Radio Mozambique earlier this month that the country expects to receive about 6 million doses and plans to begin vaccinating people from the end of June or in July.

South Africa's tourism suffers as COVID-19 rages

wmr,adi,kbd,rc/aw (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)