COVID-19 infection gives some immunity for at least 5 months, UK study finds

COVID-19 infection gives some immunity for at least 5 months, UK study finds
A lab technician takes a swab sample from a man for the COVID-19 test at the Pasteur Institute in Tunis on January 13, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 14 January 2021

COVID-19 infection gives some immunity for at least 5 months, UK study finds

COVID-19 infection gives some immunity for at least 5 months, UK study finds
  • Covid reinfection is extremely rare for those with natural antibodies
  • However, study warns people with antibodies may still be able to carry and spread the virus

LONDON: People who have had COVID-19 are highly likely to have immunity to it for at least five months but there is evidence that those with antibodies may still be able to carry and spread the virus, a UK study of health care workers has found.
Preliminary findings by scientists at Public Health England (PHE) showed that reinfections in people who have COVID-19 antibodies from a past infection are rare — with only 44 cases found among 6,614 previously infected people in the study.
But experts cautioned that the findings mean people who contracted the disease in the first wave of the pandemic in the early months of 2020 may now be vulnerable to catching it again.
They also warned that people with so-called “natural immunity” — acquired through having had the infection — may still be able carry the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus 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, senior medical adviser at PHE and co-leader of the study, whose findings were published on Thursday.
“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 (it) to others.”
A statement on the study said its findings did not address antibody or other immune responses to vaccines now being rolled out against COVID-19, or on how effective vaccines would be. Vaccine responses will be considered later this year, it said.
The research, known as the SIREN study, involves tens of thousands of health care workers in Britain who have been tested regularly since June for new COVID-19 infections as well as for the presence of antibodies.
Between June 18 and Nov. 24 scientists detected 44 potential reinfections — two “probable” and 42 “possible” — out of 6,614 participants who had tested positive for antibodies. This represents an 83% rate of protection from reinfection, they said.
The researchers plan to continue following and assessing the participants to see if this natural immunity might last longer than five months in some. But they warned that early evidence from the next stage of the study already suggests some people with immunity can still carry high levels of virus and could transmit it to others.
“It is therefore crucial that everyone continues to follow the rules and stays at home, even if they have previously had COVID-19,” they said in the statement about their results.


Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners
Updated 19 January 2021

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners
  • Taliban spokesman says first vice president wants to sabotage the peace talks

KABUL: Afghanistan’s First Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Monday demanded the execution of Taliban prisoners as violence surges in the country in spite of US-sponsored talks between the government and the militants.

Under mounting US pressure and following months of delay, Kabul released last summer thousands of Taliban prisoners from its custody as part of the landmark accord between the group and Washington.

But now there has been a spike in arrests of suspected Taliban fighters linked with recent attacks.

“These arrests should be executed so that it becomes a lesson for others,” Saleh told a routine security meeting in Kabul.

“The arrested like nightingales admit (to conducting attacks), but their all hope is that they will be freed one day without real punishment … any terrorist detainee should be executed.”

Known as the staunchest anti-Taliban leader in government and consistently opposed to talks with the Taliban, Saleh said he would raise his demand for the executions in the High Council of the Judiciary. His spokesman, Rezwan Murad, said the first vice president has also shared his demand with President Ashraf Ghani.

“Currently, around 1,000 Taliban prisoners have been sentenced to capital punishment,” Prison Administration spokesman in Kabul, Farhad Bayani, told Arab News.

“Such news is provoking, he wants to sabotage the process of talks,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, when reached by Arab News for reaction to Saleh’s push.

“We will severely take the revenge of any type of inhuman and cruel treatment of our prisoners.”

The Afghan government was excluded from the US and Taliban deal signed last February in Doha, which as per the agreement is also hosting the current peace talks between Kabul and the insurgents.

In spite of the ongoing talks, violence has surged in Afghanistan and both the government and the Taliban accuse each other for its escalation.

Hundreds of civilians have lost their lives in the violence, which has displaced tens of thousands of people since the February deal, while Kabul has endured a resurgence in assassination attacks and magnet bombs.

Prior to Saleh, some residents and lawmakers also demanded the executions of Taliban members suspected of being behind major attacks. Heather Barr, interim co-director for Human Rights Watch, told Arab News: “Human Rights Watch opposes the use of the death penalty under all circumstances. It is a uniquely cruel and irreversible punishment and we are glad to see that there has been some global progress towards abolition of the death penalty.”

She added: “Afghanistan has already seen so much violence and death and continues to experience this violence every day. There is an urgent need for accountability for the many human rights violations that have been inflicted during Afghanistan’s many years of war, but executions will not bring the justice Afghans so badly need.”