Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Dr Chris Smith warned those who have already been infected with coronavirus can catch the new mutated strain circulating in the UK in a matter of days from recovering. The virologist explained immunity to the deadly disease could be very short-lived as he urged people to continue to comply with strict social distancing measures. He said: “As far as we know, you should regard yourself whether you’ve had coronavirus in the past or not, as potentially susceptible to coronavirus.
“Because although with most viruses when you’ve encountered them and your bodies has made an immune response and you can regard yourself as immune, for some viruses – coronaviruses included – the immunity you get from that infection can be very short-lived.
“And indeed there are a number of case reports out there now of people who definitely caught coronavirus and a short time later – indeed one case report I’ve seen within 48 days of recovering from coronavirus, a person caught it again.
“So the immunity can be short-lived, and the immunity not just for one strain but the immunity potentially for all the different variants of the coronavirus that exist can be short-lived.
“So, until you’ve had the vaccine, which is the best prospect of being protected for a really long time – we think – you should regard yourself as potentially susceptible to any strain, whether or not you’ve had it.
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“Even if your infection was fairly recent.
“That means carry on with all the usual steps we’re using, public health measures such as social distancing etc. to protect yourself until such time we get the level of the virus in society down to really low levels and we have got vaccines into appreciable numbers of people.”
Boris Johnson will hold crisis talks with ministers after France banned lorries carrying freight from the UK and countries around the world ended flights amid fears over the new mutant coronavirus strain.
The Prime Minister will chair a meeting of the Government’s Cobra civil contingencies committee on Monday amid warnings of “significant disruption” around the Channel ports in Kent.
Hauliers were urged to stay away from the area amid warnings of potential problems as the end of the Brexit transition period looms on December 31.
Kent Police said they were implementing Operation Stack in a bid to ease potential congestion, while the Department for Transport said Manston Airport was also being prepared as another contingency measure against the anticipated level of disruption.
Countries including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, and Bulgaria announced restrictions on UK travel following the disclosure that the highly infectious new strain is widespread across south-east England.
Italian authorities also announced the mutant strain had been detected in a traveller who recently returned to the country from the UK.
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With France suspending all traffic from the UK for 48 hours, it raised fears that trade flows could be severely disrupted while passengers across Europe could be left stranded in the final run-up to Christmas.
A No 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister will chair a Cobra meeting tomorrow to discuss the situation regarding international travel, in particular the steady flow of freight into and out of the UK.
“Further meetings are happening this evening and tomorrow morning to ensure robust plans are in place.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urged people including hauliers to stay away from the area around the Channel ports.
“We expect significant disruption in the area. My department is urgently working with Highways England and Kent Council on contingency measures to minimise traffic disruption in the area,” he said.