The warnings for the second wave of coronavirus pour as countries start easing the restrictions after almost three-month lockdown. Here’s a glance at what it might look like.
The Second Wave
History tells us the devastation caused by the second wave of virus can be massive as it was in Spanish flu pandemic 1918-20 and H1N1 epidemic 2009-10. While New Zealand and Slovenia have managed to eradicate Coronavirus, UK has progressed much in arresting the virus. The increased awareness of preventive measures such as masks and handwash can help to a large extent. However, the governments may consider imposing recurring restrictions to which people might not adhere to sincerely because of the lockdown fatigue.
The Math of Virus Spread
The virus needs a successful transmission to spread, which is only possible with the availability of susceptible and infected hosts. These factors affect the reproduction of the virus, R, the average number of new cases caused by one infected individual. While a value higher than one depicts the increasing number of cases, contrarily less than one shows the declining trend. The relation between population and R is complex; however, the concept can help understand how the second wave of the virus may appear.
Increase in the Number of Cases
The presence of susceptible and infected people in the population will result in the spread of the virus. Countries like China, South Korea, New Zealand, the UK have managed to bring down the value of R below one. However, its value remains above one in Sweden and Russia, reflecting the spike in the number of cases. Now, as the government removes restrictions, people will interact more, and that may increase the value of R. Even a modest change of 0.2 in value of R will lead to a significant outbreak, causing the second wave.
The Spread Continues in Winter
With the onset of the second wave, the virus may continue to spread in autumn and winter. Though the virus remains unaffected by the weather, the healthcare system may get overwhelmed with the flu and SARS-CoV-2 virus at the same time. Moreover, the mutation of the virus similar to Spanish flu may result in more infectious strain.
In conclusion, the government needs to strike a balance between the needs of the economy and social life to suppress the virus.