Could a second wave of Covid-19 bring the world, or much of it, to a standstill again towards fall? Barely months, even weeks, after international travel takes off again in some countries.
Top Covid-19 scientific advisors in France believe a second wave of Covid-19 is “extremely likely” in the northern hemisphere in coming months. And it could be “much greater than the first”.
France’s Scientific Committee, which was set up to give recommendations to the French government over the corona crisis, has warned of an “intensification of Covid-19 in fall”, reports L’Obs. The warning came in a government note made public on Sunday. (The document was issued by the ministry for Social Affairs and Health).
“An intensification of the circulation of SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) in the northern hemisphere sooner or later (within a few months, and especially as winter approaches) is extremely probable”, it reads. Extreme vigilance is required to reduce that threat, it urges.
“According to the 13 members who make up the Committee, the return in force of the disease on the French territory, in the short or medium term, is a probability,” reports BFMTV. “Is Europe not done with Covid-19?”
Not only Europe. Their alarm bell for a second wave in the northern hemisphere also means travels could again–or in some cases still–be off in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, China, Japan and India.
Low Herd Immunity, High Global Infections
Their worrying forecasts are based on three criteria:
- Firstly low general immunity in the community. In France the Institut Pasteur puts that at 5% of the population. That’s an insufficient figure “to prevent the occurrence of a second epidemic wave,” the scientists say. The low immunity would be a scenario applying to many other countries, given France was one of the worst-hit countries in Europe at the height of the pandemic, with a total today of 160,750 cases.
- Secondly, they point to the “very significant manner in which the virus is still circulating on a planetary level, particularly in the southern hemisphere, which is approaching its winter period.” Some countries are experiencing “an uncontrolled multiplication of cases,” BFM notes. In Brazil notably, with over 1.1 million cases.
- Thirdly, the Committee refers to the typical life span of such a virus, which is far from over in the case of Covid. “… the experience of influenza pandemics, which occur in two or three waves before adopting a seasonal rhythm,” the document states.
Covid Second, Third Wave Possible Globally
Some experts dismiss the idea of a second wave. Not these public health experts who talk even of a third one for corona. Presided over by infectious disease specialist Jean-François Delfraissy, other committee members include virologists and epidemiologists.
“If we look at the history of the great pandemics of respiratory viruses, we see that eight out of ten regress in European countries spontaneously during the summer. On the other hand, five out of ten recur in the fall,” Professor Delfraissy told Le Parisien newspaper.
Earlier in June, the Council said it was confident that the Covid-19 crisis was “under control” in France. Active, yet slowed down. Today France reported 373 new coronavirus infections in 24 hours. That compares to as many as 80,000 in early March, and 1,000 in early June.
The news comes as Europe gets set to open its borders to some 50 countries with similar Covid-19 infection rates in July. And as a travel bubble is set to restart tourism between China and Singapore, without a quarantine if travelers test negative. Japan too will reportedly ease its travel curbs soon on Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam.
Will travelers have to make the most of a Europe summer before a new lockdown hits in fall? The spectre of a second wave could certainly lead to that, and fresh travel bans.
To avoid such a scenario, the scientists say surveillance–and preparedness–is crucial. “We don’t fear the rapid appearance of a second wave,” one of the authors–virologist Bruno Lina–told France Inter radio. But in fall, yes it’s possible.
“Yet we are not at all in the same situation in which we were in February and March,” he added. “We have tools, means, which allow us to better monitor this virus and probably do what we did not manage to do in the first wave of the epidemic … to control its spread as soon as cases are very quickly identified.”
Colleague, Lila Bouadma was less positive: “We still have a few weeks, even I hope a few months, to prepare for this day … because the second wave could be much worse than the first,” he told a French Parliament Covid-19 investigative committee last week.