More than 100 South Koreans who fully recovered from COVID-19 have tested positive again, said officials in a Monday update.
The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, may have “reactivated” in 116 patients, health officials said, reported Reuters.
Jeong Eun-Kyeong, the head of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the virus may have reactivated after staying dormant in the patients instead of those patients having been reinfected with COVID-19.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-Kyun said the government is aiming to lift some of the country’s stay-at-home regulations, which are in effect until April 19.
“We need a very cautious approach because any premature easing of social distancing could bring irreversible consequences, and have to ponder deeply about when and how we switch to the new system,” he said, reported Reuters
World Health Organization (WHO) officials said Monday that not all people who have recovered from the virus have developed antibodies to fight off a second infection, raising fears that they will not gain immunity after surviving COVID-19.
“With regards to recovery and then re-infection, I believe we do not have the answers to that. That is an unknown,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s emergencies program, told reporters on Monday.
Ryan noted that it’s not clear whether the virus can reactivate after a CCP virus patient recovers and tests negative.
“There are many reasons why we might see reactivation of infection either with the same infection or another infectious agent,” he said, adding that there have been “many situations in viral infection where someone doesn’t clear the virus entirely from their system.”
Archie Clements, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the Curtin University in Perth, Australia, told Al Jazeera on Monday that the growing number of people testing positive for COVID-19 again could suggest there is no perfect test available.
“I think what is very, very unlikely is that these people are being reinfected by other people,” said Clements. “There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that there is quite a strong immune response to infection with coronavirus, and that should protect people from infection for a period of time. What’s not currently known is for how long.”
Twenty-five new cases of the virus were detected in South Korea on Sunday, officials told Yonhap. The total of those who have been infected stands at more than 10,537.