Coronavirus: what is a second wave and is one to come?

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The Coronavirus is far from over. Some countries are still struggling with major epidemics, but even those that are currently battling the “second wave” fear virus.

The second phase of the Spanish flu a century ago was more deadly than the first.

So an inevitable second wave? And how bad can it be?

First of all, what is a second wave?

You can think of it as the waves on the sea. The number of infections goes up and down again – each cycle is a “wave” of coronavirus.

However, there is no formal definition.

“It’s not very scientific, how you define a wave is arbitrary,” Dr. Mike Tildesley, of the University of Warwick, told the BBC.

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Some describe the rise as a second wave, but it is often a bumpy first wave. This is the case in some states in the United States.

Saying a wave is over, the virus has reportedly been brought under control and the case significantly reduced.

For a second wave to start you need a steady rise in infections. New Zealand, which has its first case after 24 days without coronavirus, and Beijing, which faces an epidemic after 50 virus-free days are not in this position.

But some scientists argue Iran may be starting to meet the criteria for a second wave.

A second wave to come to the UK?

The answer lies almost entirely with the decisions we make so that it could go anyway.

“I really think at a time when there is a lot of uncertainty … but to be honest, this is something I’m very concerned about,” says Dr. Tildseley.

The potential is clearly there – the virus is still there and it is no less deadly or infectious than it was in early 2020.

Only around 5% of people in the UK are considered to have been infected and there is no guarantee that they are all safe.

“The proof is the vast majority of people are still sensitive, in essence, if we lift all the steps that we are back to where we were in February,” says Dr. Adam Kucharski of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine .

“It almost feels like starting from scratch again. “

What could spark a second wave?

Locking lift restrictions too far.

These bans have caused massive disruption around the world by destroying jobs, affecting people’s health and removing children from school, but they have controlled the virus.

“The ultimate conundrum is how to stay in control, while minimizing the day-to-day of the disruption,” says Dr. Kucharski.

No one is 100% sure how far we can go.

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The media legendWhat factors determine the possibility of a second wave of Covid-19 infections?

This is why measures are being lifted in stadiums and new ways of controlling coronaviruses are being introduced, such as tracking contacts or coatings.

“In the UK and neighboring countries, flare-ups could happen fairly quickly, if the lifting of measures beyond the point of transmission is controlled,” says mr. Kucharski.

It has already started in Germany, where 650 people have tested positive for the virus after an epidemic at a slaughterhouse.

It is not a major problem if the clusters can be quickly identified, local locks introduced and the spread of the virus has stopped.

Otherwise, they contribute to a second wave.

South Korea, which has been widely praised for its management of the coronavirus, has had to re-impose certain restrictions due to such groups.

A second wave will be the same as the first?

Something will have seriously gone wrong if it doesn’t.

The R-value – the number of people each infected person transmitted the virus to on the average was 3 at the start of the pandemic.

It meant that the virus is spreading quickly, but our behavior has changed, we are socially distanced, and it is hard to see how R will be high again.

Dr. Kucharski told the BBC, “No country just throws everything up and comes back to normal.

“Even countries without coronavirus control – like Brazil and India – don’t have an R of 3.0. “

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Image caption

People shopping in Norwich as the lock is relaxed in the UK


If the case has started to grow again, it is likely to be relatively slow.

However, a second wave could, in theory, always be larger than the first, since many people are still sensitive.

” [But] if business goes up again, we can reintroduce locking to remove a second wave, it’s still an option available to us, “says Dr. Tildseley.

When will a second wave arrive? Will winter be even worse?

Dr. Kurcharski says local flares could be seen in “the weeks and months to come,” as the lifting of the measures.

But that doesn’t mean a second wave guarantee.

Dr Tildseley says, “If the measures are considerably relaxed, we may end up with a second wave in late August or early September. ”

Winter can be a crucial time for other coronaviruses to spread more easily afterwards.

If we were only to control the virus, even a small season-boost could lead to the spread of the virus.

“Spring probably contributed to us,” Professor Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham said.

“A second wave is almost inevitable, especially since we are going into the winter months.

“The challenge for the government is to ensure that the peak is not so much that it clogs the health care system. “

Does the virus become sweeter and no more problems?

One argument against a deadly second wave is that viruses are becoming less and less dangerous as they evolve to better infect people.

Even HIV seems to be milder. The theory is that viruses will spread more if they don’t kill their host and thus become sweeter.

“But it is not guaranteed, it is a little lazy thing some virologists trot”, explains Prof de Balle.

It’s also something that takes place over long periods of time. Over six months in the event of a pandemic there is no clear evidence that the virus has mutated to spread more easily or be less deadly.

Prof de Balle adds: “I think the virus is very good by the minute. Often people are very mild or asymptomatic of the infection, if they can pass it on then there is no reason to imagine coronavirus should become milder. ”

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