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Possibility of COVID-19 re-infection slim —WHO

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday there was a slim possibility of people being re-infected with COVID-19.

The United Nations health agency’s statement was a reaction to reports in Hong Kong that a man had contracted new coronavirus for a second time after an interval of more than four months.

But speaking with journalists in Geneva on Tuesday, WHO spokesperson, Dr. Margaret Harris, addressed concerns that the development could herald a new alert.

She said: “The important – other important – thing to note is the numbers are very, very small.

“So this is one documented case in over 23 million and we will probably see other documented cases. But it seems to be not a regular event, we would have seen many more cases.”

Nonetheless, Harris noted that the re-infection reported on Monday was significant.

READ ALSO: Risks of COVID-19 infection through breastfeeding negligible —WHO

According to the University of Hong Kong scientists, who announced the development, the virus strains that infected the man more than four months apart were different.

“The important thing here is that this is clear documentation,” the WHO spokesperson said.

“So, we have had anecdotal reports every now and then from people who had tested negative, then tested positive.

“And it hasn’t been clear up until this case whether that was simply a problem of testing or whether people were getting infected a second time.

“Priorities for the UN health agency include understanding what this means in terms of (people’s) immunity.

“This is why we have got a lot of research groups actually tracking people, measuring antibodies, trying to understand how long the immune protection lasts – the natural immune protection – and that should be understood as it is not the same as the immune protection that a vaccine provides,” Harris said.

To date, the WHO had recorded nearly 23.5 million cases of COVID-19 infection globally, with more than 809,000 deaths.

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