Coronavirus is way from over. Some nations are nonetheless coping with giant epidemics, however even these at the moment controlling the virus concern “the second wave”.
In the UK, well being specialists are warning ministers to arrange for one following the choice to additional ease restrictions in England from early July.
The second part of Spanish flu a century in the past was deadlier than the first. So, is a second wave inevitable? And how unhealthy may it’s?
Firstly, what’s a second wave?
You can assume of it like waves on the sea. The quantity of infections goes up after which comes again down once more – every cycle is one “wave” of coronavirus.
Yet there isn’t a formal definition.
“It’s not particularly scientific: how you define a wave is arbitrary,” Dr Mike Tildesley, from the University of Warwick, instructed the BBC.
Some describe any rise as a second wave, however it’s typically a bumpy first wave. This is going on in some US states.
In order to say one wave has ended, the virus would have been introduced beneath management and circumstances fallen considerably.
For a second wave to start out you would want a sustained rise in infections. New Zealand, which has its first circumstances after 24 days with out coronavirus, and Beijing, which is dealing with an outbreak after 50 virus-free days, aren’t on this place.
But some scientists argue Iran could also be beginning to meet the standards for a second wave.
Will a second wave come to the UK?
The reply lies virtually fully with the choices we make, so it may go both means.
“I really think at the moment there’s huge uncertainty… but to be honest it’s something I’m very concerned about,” says Dr Tildesley.
The potential is clearly there – the virus continues to be round and it’s no much less lethal or infectious than at the begin of 2020.
Only round 5% of people in the UK are thought to have been contaminated and there’s no assure they’re all immune.
“The evidence is the vast majority of people are still susceptible. In essence, if we lift all measures, we’re back to where we were in February,” says Dr Adam Kucharski from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
“It’s almost like starting from scratch again.”
What may set off a second wave?
Lifting lockdown restrictions too far.
Lockdowns have brought on huge disruption round the world – destroying jobs, affecting individuals’s well being and taking kids out of faculty – however they’ve managed the virus.
“The ultimate puzzle is how to maintain control, while minimising daily disruption,” says Dr Kucharski.
Nobody is 100% certain how far we will go.
That is why measures are being lifted in levels and new methods of controlling coronavirus are being launched, equivalent to contact tracing or face coverings.
“In the UK and neighbouring countries, flare-ups could happen quite quickly if measures are lifted beyond the point transmission is controlled,” says Dr Kucharski.
This is already beginning in Germany, the place tons of of individuals have examined constructive for the virus after an outbreak at an abattoir.
It will not be a main downside if clusters could be quickly recognized, native lockdowns launched and unfold of the virus stopped.
Otherwise, they contribute to a second wave.
South Korea, which has been extensively praised for its dealing with of the coronavirus, has needed to reimpose some restrictions as a result of of such clusters.
Will a second wave be the identical as the first?
Something could have gone critically unsuitable whether it is.
The worth of R – the quantity of individuals every contaminated individual handed the virus to on common – was three at the begin of the pandemic.
It meant the virus was spreading quick, however our behaviour has modified, we’re social distancing, and it is onerous to see how R will get that prime once more.
Dr Kucharski instructed the BBC: “No nation goes to simply carry all the pieces and return to regular.
“Even countries without control of coronavirus – like Brazil and India – don’t have an R of 3.0.”
If circumstances did begin to develop once more, it’s more likely to be comparatively sluggish.
However, a second wave may, theoretically, nonetheless find yourself greater than the first as a result of so many individuals are nonetheless prone.
“[But] if cases climb again, we can reintroduce lockdown to suppress a second wave. That’s always an option available to us,” says Dr Tildesley.
When will a second wave occur? Will winter make it worse?
Dr Kurcharski says native flare-ups might be seen in “even the coming weeks or months” as measures are lifted.
But that doesn’t imply a assured second wave.
Dr Tildesley says: “If measures are relaxed significantly, we may end up with a second wave in late August or early September.”
Winter could also be a essential time as different coronaviruses do unfold extra readily then.
If we have been solely simply controlling the virus, even a small seasonal increase may result in the virus spreading.
“Spring undoubtedly helped us,” Prof Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham, says.
“A second wave is nearly inevitable, notably as we go in direction of the winter months.
“The challenge for government is to ensure the peak isn’t so much that it overburdens the healthcare system.”
Will the virus grow to be milder and not a downside?
One argument in opposition to a lethal second wave is that viruses grow to be much less harmful as they evolve, to raised infect individuals.
Even HIV appears to be getting milder. The principle goes that viruses will unfold additional if they do not kill their host and so grow to be milder.
“But it’s not guaranteed. It’s a bit of a lazy thing some virologists trot out,” says Prof Ball.
It can be one thing that takes place over lengthy durations of time. More than six months into the pandemic there isn’t a clear proof the virus has mutated to unfold extra simply or be much less lethal.
Prof Ball provides: “I think the virus is doing very well at the minute. People often have very mild or symptomless infection. If they can transmit, then there is no reason to imagine coronavirus needs to become milder.”