Several countries are bracing for a second wave of COVID-19 infections as multiple countries begin to ease their social distancing restrictions.
Health authorities are increasingly warning that the question isn’t whether a second wave of infections and deaths will hit, but when and how badly.
As more countries reopen for business, even as their own infection rates are at different stages, managing those future infections is as important as preventing them.
Discussions about what a second wave would look like are coming even as many areas are still struggling with the first wave of this pandemic.
Wuhan has reported its first new case of COVID-19 in more than five weeks.
The Chinese city, where the coronavirus first broke out last December, had not recorded a new case since April 3, and comes after the country eased lockdowns and reopened schools.
The new Wuhan case, the first reported in the epicentre of China’s outbreak since April 3, was previously asymptomatic, according to the Hubei provincial health commission.
The 89-year-old man had not left his residential compound in Dongxihu district since the Lunar New Year in late January. His wife also tested positive, though she showed no symptoms, the Wuhan municipal health commission said.
The residential compound has had 20 confirmed cases, and experts say the new infection was mainly due to previous community infections.
After the case was confirmed, medical officials have carried out nucleic acid tests on residents of the compound and found five asymptomatic infections.
The infections highlight the continued potential for new clusters of infections due to carriers who do not look ill or have a fever.
Authorities also reported what could be the beginning of a new wave of coronavirus cases in northeast China, with one city in Jilin province being reclassified as high-risk, the top of a three-tier zoning system.
Jilin officials raised the risk level of the city of Shulan to high from medium, having hoisted it to medium from low just the day before after one woman tested positive on May 7.
Eleven new cases in Shulan were confirmed on May 9, all of them members of her family or people who came into contact with her or family members.
The new cases pushed the overall number of new confirmed cases in mainland China on May 9 to 14, according to the National Health Commission on Sunday, the highest number since April 28.
Yesterday, South Korea confirmed 34 new cases – the highest daily number in a month.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said the country should “brace for the pandemic’s second wave,” according to the BBC.
In early March, South Korea had the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases after China.
The country was praised for rapidly containing the virus through diligent contact tracing, strict lockdowns and frequent testing.
But the country has since relaxed its social distancing laws, resulting in a new cluster of coronavirus cases after a 29-year-old man visited three nightclubs in Seoul before testing positive for the virus.
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon ordered all nightclubs, discos, hostess bars and other night-life establishments to close as a result.
Iran, one of the hardest-hit countries by COVID-19, has begun easing restrictions.
The country is in an especially precarious situation, with its economy taking a battering from both social restrictions on normal life and US sanctions.
But a county in southwestern Iran has since been placed back under lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus, Tasnim news agency reported, following a sharp rise in new cases across the province.
Gholamreza Shariati, governor of Khuzestan province, said the rise in cases was due to people not observing social distancing rules.
“Because of this the number of corona patients in the province has tripled and the hospitalisation of patients has risen by 60 per cent,” he said.
Last week, health officials rushed to contain a COVID-19 outbreak in one of Asia’s largest fruit and vegetable markets in India’s southern city of Chennai.
The market has been linked to more than 500 cases of the virus, with 7000 people being traced and quarantined.
The market, which had remained open during India’s six-week virus lockdown, is central to the region’s food supply chain. The challenge for public health officials is to track the many traders, workers, and shoppers who visited the market.
Experts said the virus cluster has exposed India’s poor surveillance during the pandemic. They said the country’s long denial of how prevalent the virus was resulted in people not taking precautions, and warned that the market cluster could result in cases in India snowballing.
Germany fared relatively well against other countries in western Europe, largely avoiding the dramatic scenes that played out in Italy and Spain.
But now the country has warned of a second and even third wave, and threatened to reimpose virus restrictions if new cases can’t be contained.
Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday met with the country’s 16 governors to discuss further easing restrictions that have crippled Europe’s largest economy.
Last week, she announced the gradual reopening of large shops, schools, nurseries, restaurants and bars, following growing impatience with restrictions across the country.
According to The Guardian, the reproduction number (R), which indicates how many new cases one infected person generates on average, rose for two consecutive days above the critical threshold after her announcement.
“There will be a second wave, but the problem is to which extent. Is it a small wave or a big wave? It’s too early to say,” said Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at France’s Pasteur Institute.
Last week, the country faced outbreaks at three slaughterhouses in what was seen as a test of its strategy for dealing with any resurgence as restrictions ease. At one slaughterhouse, in Coesfeld, 180 workers tested positive.
– With wires