Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said that guidelines on immunity only apply to healthcare workers. Leah Farrell/

Three-month immunity advice for healthcare staff not to be extended to general population

Healthcare staff have been told they can act as if they are immune from Covid-19 for three months after recovering.

PEOPLE WHO HAVE recovered from Covid-19 should not act as if they’re immune, health officials have said, despite healthcare staff being treated as immune for three months after contracting the virus. 

Earlier this week, reported that the HSE had informed healthcare staff that they would be treated as being immune from Covid-19 for three months after first contracting the virus. 

This advice, however, will not yet be extended to the general population, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said this evening. 

Responding to a question at the Department of Health briefing this evening, Holohan said: “We just have recommended that measure for its application in healthcare settings because of the desire to ensure that we minimise the impact on the healthcare workforce,” he said. 

The HSE has been particularly concerned in recent months about avoiding major staffing pressures and a significant number of Covid-19 cases have been among healthcare workers. 

During the crisis, staff deemed “essential” have been subject to a derogation that sees them return to work early despite being a close contact of a confirmed coronavirus case, if asymptomatic. 

Holohan said that it was not yet possible to make the same recommendation on immunity to the wider community. 

“We’ll keep the whole thing under review. That whole question, of the role of immunity and then participation by people in society in activity or work, is a question under ongoing international scrutiny and research,” he said. 

The extent of immunity a person has after recovering from Covid-19 is unclear.

A document published on 13 May, compiled by the Health Information and Quality Authority, sets out the limited results of research into post-infection immunity. The available evidence suggests that there could potentially be antibodies in individuals for one to two years after being infected. 

However, the HIQA document states that “it is unclear if reinfection can occur following recovery from” Covid-19. 

World Health Organization officials have also acknowledged the limited data available on immunity.

It remains unclear if a person with Covid-19 antibodies is protected from the virus into the future.

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