A Philippine government minister has tested positive for coronavirus five months after the first diagnosis, authorities reported on Monday, 17th August. Experts are investigating whether he had been re-infected.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano, who is helping to spearhead the country’s virus response, said he returned a positive test on Saturday after experiencing flu-like symptoms last week.
The minister was first diagnosed with COVID-19 in March, but did not show any signs of the disease then.
Research has shown that people infected with coronavirus build up antibodies about a week after infection or the onset of symptoms.
Scientists are still unsure whether the body systematically builds up enough immunity to ward off a new attack by the virus or, if it does, how long such immunity lasts.
Some studies have shown that patients who recover from coronavirus may lose their immunity within months, or even weeks.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said experts were analysing Ano’s symptoms, his previous positive test, and laboratory results to see if this is a second infection.
“Let’s not call it a re-infection. The scientific community has not yet accepted that a re-infection occurs,” Vergeire concluded.
Ano was tested prior to a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte and other key cabinet members on Monday to decide whether to extend a two-week lockdown in Manila and four surrounding provinces that is supposed to expire this week.
The country’s virus rate has surged above 160,000 — the highest in Southeast Asia — with more than 2,600 deaths. More than a quarter of the infections are still active.