Dozens of people in the UK have endured COVID as many as four times, according to the latest official data.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) says 62 people have had four positive tests, each of them at least 90 days apart, since the start of the pandemic.
Another 7,640 had been infected three times by 6 March 2022, when the data was collected.
In all, there have been 715,154 re-infections, according to the UKHSA’s latest weekly flu and COVID surveillance report.
The figures are for England, suggesting the UK totals will be even higher.
‘Many of us will get re-infected every few years’
Paul Hunter, Professor of Medicine at the University of East Anglia, said people who have been re-infected multiple times are likely to have had different variants of the virus.
But even if the virus stopped evolving now, immunity to infections caught through the nose and throat is so short-lived that people are likely to be re-infected every two years or so.
He told Sky News: “This virus is going to be part of our lives. Many of us are going to get re-infected every few years.
“Even our grandchildren’s grandchildren will still be getting COVID.”
However, he said although immunity against the virus wanes, it still prevents serious disease so subsequent bouts of COVID are milder.
It is thought the likelihood of suffering a re-infection is partly due to genetics of the immune system or an underlying health issue that can prevent it working as well.
High contact with other people also increases the opportunities for picking up the virus.
‘Uptick likely to be down to factors including more social contact’
The UKHSA report confirms that cases of COVID-19 are rising in all age groups, led by people in their 30s and 40s.
It says the uptick is likely to be due to increased social contacts, the end to self-isolation rules and the rapid spread of the more infectious BA.2 version of Omicron.
But the vaccine is still just as effective against BA.2 and the infection it causes is no more severe.
New research by the UKHSA, published in The Lancet, underlines the reduced threat of Omicron compared to the previously dominant variant, Delta.
Results show that infection with Omicron has a 59% reduced risk of hospital admission and 69% lower risk of death than Delta.
According to the latest government figures, 534,747 people in the UK tested positive for coronavirus in the last seven days.
This is an increase of nearly 44% on the previous week.
Also, there have been 740 coronavirus-related deaths in the last seven days.