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As countries grapple with COVID-19, why we should be worried about the 2nd wave

Once China minimally relaxed their strict restrictions, the country started seeing a resurgence in new cases. @Shutterstock

With China experiencing a resurgence in new COVID-19 cases, the world may soon have to deal with a second wave of the contagion.

Written by Jahnavi Sarma |Published : April 16, 2020 11:31 AM IST

COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan, China, towards the end of 2019, has today spread to almost the entire world. It has halted life as we know it with most people spending time in isolation from others. In less than 3 months, this new strain of coronavirus has spread its tentacles far and wide, defying all efforts to contain it. This is a global pandemic. Scientists have no data to fall back on as this is a previously unknown variant of coronavirus. It has confounded experts and a cure or vaccine is still a long way off. Regions across all continents are actually experiencing what we may call the first wave of the pandemic. China had successfully contained the first wave and were able to lift restrictions to a certain degree. Experts say that understanding how this was done can help prevent the second wave of the deadly contagion.

Non-pharmaceutical interventions helped contain 1st wave

A study in The Lancet looked at the transmissibility and severity of COVID-19 during the first wave in four cities and ten provinces in China outside Hubei. Researchers saw that the number of positive COVID-19 cases came down drastically when non-pharmaceutical control measures like social distancing and then lockdown were implemented. Most of the cases in these locations came from Hubei until late January. This is similar to transmission in January in several countries. According to researchers, these non-pharmaceutical control measures successfully contained both imported and local transmission.

But now, we see that the number of positive cases is surging alarmingly in many countries. This may be due to late reactions and a laidback attitude towards preventive measures like social distancing and contact tracing.

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Premature lockdown relaxations may invite 2nd wave of infection

According to researchers of the above-mentioned study, there may be some adverse consequences of premature relaxation of interventions. They say that if nations decide to end lockdowns, it may very well bring on a second wave of infections. They also warn against premature relaxation of strict interventions. But this study did not look into which method of intervention was most effective. But still, the findings of this research is enough for governments across the world to be cautious when it comes to announcing the end of lockdown.

Once China minimally relaxed their strict restrictions, the country started seeing a resurgence in new cases. Going by this, it is a very real threat that the entire world may have to deal with a second wave that may come at the heels of the first wave. Since the virus is a new strain and its behavior cannot be predicted even now, this is worrisome indeed.

What this means for the future

It is true that interventions are necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19. But it is equally important that things go back to normal at least on the economic front. Many experts point to the fact that restrictions on air travel helped to a certain degree. So did some other measures like physical distancing. The use of face masks, temperature checks and contact tracing will also help once countries relax their interventions.

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