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Will COVID-19 have a second peak? Yes, and WHO warns it could come sooner than you think

Will COVID-19 have a second peak? Yes, and WHO warns it could come sooner than you think
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It’s generally accepted among scientists and infectious disease experts that large pandemics often come in waves. There’s the first wave, which is the original widespread outbreak, followed by an interval of declining infections, only to see the rate of infection skyrocket months later—the infamous “second wave.”

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In the case of the 1918-1919 Spanish flu, the first wave lasted between June and July 1918. It was followed by an interval of declining infections for three months. But then the big one hit. The second wave came with a vengeance, lasting from October to December 1918. And whereas the first wave killed a little over 20 of every 1,000 people per week in just one city, New York, at its peak, the second wave killed three times as many people—60 out of every 1,000—per week at its peak.

So what everyone wants to know is: Will COVID-19 have a second peak and when will it come?

The answer to the first question, virtually every scientist agrees, is yes, COVID-19 will have a second peak. And the answer to the second question is that the second peak will probably come this fall, according to the World Health Organization’s Dr. Mike Ryan. As The Japan Times reports, speaking at an online briefing this week, Ryan said, “When we speak about a second wave, classically what we often mean is there will be a first wave of the disease by itself, and then it recurs months later. And that may be a reality for many countries in a number of months’ time.”

However, WHO’s Ryan also warned that a months-long interval of declining infections isn’t a given, and he issued a dire warning about an “immediate second peak” if governments lift lockdown restrictions too quickly and citizens don’t adhere to social distancing and face mask rules during those lifts. As Ryan noted:

But we need also to be cognizant of the fact that the disease can jump up at any time. We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now it is going to keep going down and we are get a number of months to get ready for a second wave. We may get a second peak in this wave.

The warning comes as the U.S. and European countries have begun lifting lockdown restrictions en masse, and it looks like many people are throwing social distancing rules to the wind (or the water). The worry here is that if this leads to a second peak coming sooner than expected, healthcare systems will not have a chance to recuperate, which could see the next round of deaths skyrocket past anything we’ve seen so far.

And keep in mind that the second wave, no matter when it arrives, probably won’t be the last wave of COVID-19 we have to deal with.

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