Fear of a COVID-19 Second Wave Increases as Countries Ease Restrictions

As some countries are relaxing their lockdown–the restriction measure aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19—the fear of the pandemic’s second wave is resurging, given the rise in the number of new cases numerous places.

What is a Second Wave?

Dicky Budiman, an Indonesian epidemiologist at Griffith University, Australia, described the second wave as what happens once the curve declines after reaching its peak of COVID-19 infection, then the numbers of new infections rise again.

The peak is counted with the infection rate at three to ten percent of the population, referring to the data in Wuhan, the city in China where the outbreak emerged for the first time.

“The second wave usually hits up to 90 percent of those who were not exposed to the virus,” the expert told Indonesia’s daily Kompas last April.

However, there is no confirmed definition of the second wave. We can tell one wave is over when the infection can be controlled, and the number of cases falls significantly.

“I think it’s really important that to wrap around, that there really isn’t a national epidemic that this is playing out locally across the U.S. and it’s hard to give single labels like first wave or second wave to the nation at large,” Eli Rosenberg Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics – University at Albany, said in an expert panel held by Newswise on Thursday, June 25.

“I think to have a second wave means you’ve successfully fought a first wave. I think that’s the really important piece to – that’s my starting definition. And I think in some places like Seattle, like here in New York State, we are to a large extent on the other side of the mountain as it were — not fully there, I would say, but we’re really — we’ve made it very far on the other side of that mountain, and that was due to massive public health efforts. And so now if we saw a resurgence after being all the way on that other side of the mountain, you might say. Yeah, we’ll call that a second wave. And it probably happened some time from now. It would have to happen sometime from now,” Rosenberg added.

South Korea is Facing a Second Wave

On June 22, South Korea announced that it was in the middle of the pandemic’s second wave, citing that most of the new infections came from Seoul.

As cited in Reuters, the country’s Center for Disease Prevention Control (KCDC) reported 79 new COVID-19 cases on May 28, the highest since April 5, when the country recorded 81 new cases in a single day.

Jeong Eun-kyeong, chief of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), cited the May’s holiday as the culprit behind the rise in the new COVID-19 infections, adding that the authority once predicted the second wave would fall in fall or winter.

“Our forecast turned out to be wrong. As long as people having close contact with others, we believe that infections will continue,” Jeong stated.

Due to its massive testing and contact tracing, South Korea’s effort to flatten the infection’s curve has drawn international praise.

The surge in the new cases — after reaching its peak in late February (900 a day) — made the government consider imposing a stricter social restriction if the infection rates stand at 30 cases a day for three respective days and hospitals’ rooms occupancy rate stands at 70 percent.

Starting next month, the country’s health authority will adopt a reservation system to limit the number of visitors to nursing homes and other facilities as the elderly population is prone to the virus’ infection.

As of Friday, June 26, South Korea has recorded 12,602 COVID-19 cases, with 282 deaths and 11,172 cases in recovery, Worldometer data showed.

China’s COVID-19 Case Count Rising Once Again

China has reported a surge in the new COVID-19 figures following the easing of its confinement measures. On June 14, the mainland reported 57 new numbers of COVID-19, the highest daily cases since April 13, the official data reported.

China’s capital Beijing had seen 227 new infections of COVID-19 in the last ten days as of June 23, ending its 56-day streak without new coronavirus cases.

The fresh outbreak was linked with imported salmon fish sold at a food market. However, experts said there was no evidence that food products can spread the virus.

“There is no evidence of infection via the digestive system through food consumption, including seafood products,” Feng Luzhao, a researcher at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told a press briefing cited in Bloomberg.

Beijing has closed 40 high-risk neighborhoods, canceled thousands of flights, and conducted tests on more than two million people a week since the new outbreak hit on June 11.

China has recorded 83,462 COVID-19 cases, with 78,439 cases in recovery and 4,634 deaths.

What About Other Countries?

On June 16, New Zealand ended its 24-day streak of no new COVID-19 by reporting two new coronavirus figures; both were imported cases from the UK.

As of Friday, June 16, New Zealand has reported 14 new COVID-19 figures, all have been isolated, and no community transmission has been reported so far, the country’s health minister said.

Japan is also likely to enter the pandemic’s second wave following the new 119 cases in the city of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka in the last ten days, breaking a nearly one month-streak of no coronavirus cases, the Straits Times reported.

On June 3, the Japanese authority discovered 34 new coronavirus cases in the capital Tokyo, the first time since May 14 when the new figures of COVID-19 reached more than 30.

Europe is preparing to deal with the second wave following the reopening of its economic activity and mass protests against the excesses of a police force that killed an unarmed African-American George Floyd in the U.S. state of Minneapolis on May 25.

European nations have begun to give medical workers a crash course on how to treat COVID-19 patients and are planning to retrain medics to avoid a lack of human resources in case of the second wave.

“We need a healthcare army,” said Maurizio Cecconi, president-elect of the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine (ESICM).

Italy, Spain, and France are among European countries that saw the highest numbers of COVID-19 infections in March and April. On June 24, two schools inf France’s capital Paris had been closed due to precautionary measures following the discovery of coronavirus illnesses.