According to a major UK study numerous people who have had the novel coronavirus are protected from catching it again for at least five months.
The Public Health England (PHE) study of healthcare workers found that an infection gave 83 per cent ongoing protection from reinfection.
From the 6,600 health workers who were previously infected, only 44 contracted the virus again within five months.
Scientists say the findings are not a green light to lift restrictions because individuals who developed antibodies could still carry the virus and spread it to others.
A leading epidemiologist recommended isolation restrictions on healthcare workers can be eased, permitting them to return to work much quicker, taking pressure off the National Health Service (NHS).
Officials stressed that it was essential that people continued to follow social distancing rules even if they have had the virus.
They wariness that the findings showed that people who caught the disease in the first wave of the pandemic in the early months of 2020 may now be susceptible to catching it again.
Professor Susan Hopkins, who led the study, says the results were encouraging, but was concerned that those who had been infected previously still had high levels of the virus in their nose and throat.
Professor Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College in London, says the findings could be valuable for healthcare workers who are forced to self-isolate themselves.
He says we have a real problem at the moment of healthcare workers getting infected and being off from work.
“Whether we can relax restrictions temporarily on isolation for those who have had the virus in the past few months is a question for policymakers. But it could ease pressures, for instance, on the health service.”
A statement on the study says its findings did not address antibody or other immune responses to vaccines now being used against Covid-19, or on how effective vaccines would be. Vaccine responses will be considered later this year.
The research, branded as the Siren study, encompasses tens of thousands of healthcare workers in the UK who have been tested regularly since June last year for new Covid-19 infections as well as for the presence of antibodies.
The researchers plan to continue following and assessing the participants to see if this natural immunity might last longer than five months in some.
They advised that early evidence from the next stage of the study already suggests some people with immunity can still carry high levels of the virus and could possibly transmit it to others.
They say it is therefore crucial that everyone continues to follow the rules and regulations and stay at home, even if they have previously had the Covid-19 virus.
Amid June 18 and November 24 scientists have detected 44 potential reinfections two plausible and 42 possible out of 6,600 participants who had tested positive for antibodies.
This represents an 83 per cent rate of protection from reinfection.
By Yazdaan Khan