WHO warns that millions more could die in a coronavirus second wave if pandemic picks ups again

Millions of people across the world could die if there is a second wave of coronavirus infections, the World Health Organisation warned on Friday. 

Dr Ranieri Guerra, an assistant director-general for strategic initiatives at the WHO, said the pandemic had so far spread as health officials had anticipated.

Comparing COVID-19 to the Spanish Flu outbreak more than 100 years ago, Mr Guerra said the older pandemic ‘fiercely resumed’ in September and October – when temperatures were cooler – after a dip. 

He told Italy’s Rai TV: ‘The comparison is with the Spanish Flu, which behaved exactly like Covid: it went down in the summer and fiercely resumed in September and October, creating 50 million deaths during the second wave.’

His warning was echoed by European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, who said on Friday that ‘of course there could a severe second wave if we learn anything from the Spanish Flu of 1918-19.’

Millions of people across the world could die if there is a second wave of coronavirus infections, the World Health Organisation warned on Friday. Pictured: As of Friday, the number of infections surged to nearly 9.5million, with the number of deaths now standing at 483,686

Dr Ranieri Guerra, an assistant director-general for strategic initiatives at the WHO, said the pandemic had so far spread as health officials had anticipated. Pictured: Thursday also brought another 5,336 deaths, up from 4,188 on Wednesday

Dr Ranieri Guerra, an assistant director-general for strategic initiatives at the WHO, said the pandemic had so far spread as health officials had anticipated. Pictured: Thursday also brought another 5,336 deaths, up from 4,188 on Wednesday

What is a second wave of a pandemic? 

Infectious disease experts, economists and politicians have raised concerns about a second wave of coronavirus infections in the United States that could worsen in the coming months.

But some, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, said it is too soon to discuss a second wave when the United States has never emerged from a first wave in which more than 120,000 people have died and more than 2.3 million Americans have had confirmed infections with the novel coronavirus.

Here is an explanation of what is meant by a second wave.

WHY DESCRIBE DISEASE OUTBREAKS AS WAVES?

In infectious disease parlance, waves of infection describe the curve of an outbreak, reflecting a rise and fall in the number of cases. With viral infections such as influenza or the common cold, cases typically crest in the cold winter months and recede as warmer weather reappears.

Fears about a second wave of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, stem in part from the trajectory of the 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic that infected 500 million people worldwide and killed an estimated 20 to 50 million people. The virus first appeared in the spring of 1918 but appears to have mutated when it surged again in the fall, making for a deadlier second wave.

“It came back roaring and was much worse,” epidemiologist Dr. William Hanage of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health said.

Epidemiologists said there is no formal definition of a second wave, but they know it when they see it.

“It’s often quite clear. You’ll see a rise involving a second group of people after infections in a first group have diminished,” epidemiologist Dr. Jessica Justman of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health said.

U.S. COVID-19 cases spiked in March and April and then edged downward in response to social-distancing policies aimed at slowing the transmission of the virus from person to person. But unlike several countries in Europe and Asia, the United States never experienced a dramatic drop in cases marking the clear end of a first wave. There is now a plateau of about 20,000 U.S. cases daily.

“You can’t talk about a second wave in the summer because we’re still in the first wave. We want to get that first wave down. Then we’ll see if we can keep it there,” Fauci told the Washington Post last week.

The easing in recent weeks of social-distancing mandates in numerous U.S. states as businesses have reopened has caused an acceleration in infections.

The Spanish Flu outbreak ravaged numerous countries around the world, including Britain, where there were more than 220,000 deaths and the US, where 675,000 died. 

The virus first appeared in the spring of 1918 but appears to have mutated when it surged again in the fall, making for a deadlier second wave.

It was made worse by the fact it struck as the First World War was coming to an end. 

‘It came back roaring and was much worse,’ epidemiologist Dr. William Hanage of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health said.

Epidemiologists said there is no formal definition of a second wave, but they know it when they see it.

“It’s often quite clear. You’ll see a rise involving a second group of people after infections in a first group have diminished,’ epidemiologist Dr. Jessica Justman of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health said.

Dr Guerra’s comments are concerning because countries in Europe and across the world are beginning to relax lockdown measures, even as the number of coronavirus cases and deaths globally continues to rise. 

As of Thursday, the number of infections surged to nearly 9.5million, with the number of deaths now standing at 483,686. 

There were 167,056 new cases globally on Thursday, up from 135,180 the day before. 

Thursday also brought another 5,336 deaths, up from 4,188 on Wednesday. 

Rises in the number of deaths caused by an increase in infections can lag behind by up to three to four weeks.  

Bank chief Ms Lagarde said Friday that the badly-hit European economy has ‘probably passed the lowest point’, while warning about the comparison with Spanish Flu. 

The worst-hit country in terms of new infections and deaths is Brazil, where another 1,185 deaths and 42,725 cases were reported on Friday. 

It means more than 1million people have been infected with the virus in the country, with 53,830 dying.

Brazil is followed closely by the US, where there were 37,601 new cases on Friday, up from 34,191 the day before. A further 690 deaths were announced.

Overall, the US has seen 2,367,064 cases, with 121,645 deaths. 

Countries have been balancing the need to reopen economies shattered by coronavirus shutdowns with the need to maintain sufficient measures to prevent a feared second wave. 

In the United States, after hitting a two-month plateau, the rate of new cases is now soaring in southern and western states.

Texas governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to close on Friday, further halting the phased reopening of the second most populous US state after California.

Texas was among the most aggressive states in reopening in early June under Abbott, a Republican ally of President Donald Trump, who has faced sharp criticism for his handling of the crisis

‘This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread,’ said Abbott.

The WHO also warned on Thursday that Europe is not yet in the clear, saying 11 nations faced a ‘very significant resurgence’ that could push health systems ‘to the brink once again.’

Sweden on Friday however accused the WHO of a ‘total mistake’ by listing it along with 10 other countries that are mostly poorer nations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which is included in the WHO’s European region.

Comparing COVID-19 to the Spanish Flu outbreak more than 100 years ago, Mr Guerra said the older pandemic 'fiercely resumed' in September and October - when temperatures were cooler - after a dip

Comparing COVID-19 to the Spanish Flu outbreak more than 100 years ago, Mr Guerra said the older pandemic ‘fiercely resumed’ in September and October – when temperatures were cooler – after a dip 

A graph showing the total number of coronavirus deaths in the country along the vertical axis, with the USA at the top, versus the number of deaths per million along the bottom axis, with Belgium the worst-hit

Globally, coronavirus cases have been soaring. But deaths have remained largely flat. That has led to claims that the pandemic is easing, and increased testing is behind the apparent surge

Globally, coronavirus cases have been soaring. But deaths have remained largely flat. That has led to claims that the pandemic is easing, and increased testing is behind the apparent surge

The Scandinavian country has made headlines for its high death toll after it opted not to introduce strict lockdowns.

‘We have an increase in cases because we have begun testing much more in Sweden the past week,’ said Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, adding that ‘all the other parameters’ showed the number of serious cases was falling.

In Britain, people were urged to abide by social distancing rules after tens of thousands swarmed the seaside resort of Bournemouth during a heatwave.

Police also criticised fans who gathered outside Liverpool’s Anfield ground Thursday night after the club secured the English Premier League football title for the first time in 30 years.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people were ‘taking too many liberties with the guidance’.

Britain has Europe’s highest death toll with 43,230.

Ukraine meanwhile reported a record daily increase in coronavirus cases as authorities warned lockdowns might have to be re-imposed if people continued to flout restrictions.

‘People have ceased to comply with restrictions,’ Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said. 

In Australia, supermarkets imposed purchase limits on toilet paper across the country Friday following panic buying by people rattled following a surge in coronavirus cases in Melbourne, the country’s second-biggest city.

‘Stop it, it’s ridiculous,’ Prime Minister Scott Morrison told his compatriots

The early stages of coronavirus lockdowns in many countries were marked by panic buying of toilet paper and other supplies.

However the pressure to reopen badly-hit economies and limit what promises to be a historic global recession remains immense.

He told Italy 's Rai TV: 'The comparison is with the Spanish Flu, which behaved exactly like Covid: it went down in the summer and fiercely resumed in September and October, creating 50 million deaths during the second wave.' Pictured: Health workers in New Delhi, India, carry the body of a person who died from coronavirus

He told Italy ‘s Rai TV: ‘The comparison is with the Spanish Flu, which behaved exactly like Covid: it went down in the summer and fiercely resumed in September and October, creating 50 million deaths during the second wave.’ Pictured: Health workers in New Delhi, India, carry the body of a person who died from coronavirus  

Airlines have suffered particularly badly, with the Dutch government announcing a 3.4 billion euro ($3.8 billion) bailout for Air France-KLM, Australia’s Qantas announcing it was cutting 6,000 staff and Germany’s Lufthansa getting the EU’s green light for a $10 billion state rescue.

The world meanwhile awaits a vaccine or treatment that authorities say is likely to take until at least early next year and probably longer.

The WHO said a global initiative to speed up the development of tests, treatments and vaccines would require more than $30 billion over the next year – of which just over one tenth had been pledged.

But in one piece of good news, fewer than one in a hundred children who test positive for COVID-19 die although a small but significant percentage develop severe illness, according to a new study led by experts in Britain, Austria and Spain. 

Are doctors getting better at treating Covid-19? Britain’s coronavirus death rate in hospitals has FALLEN to a quarter of level it was during peak of the crisis

  • Analysis by Oxford University shows 6% of virus patients in England died in April
  • As of June 15, just 1.5% of people hospitalised with the coronavirus passed away 
  • Experts believe doctors may be becoming better at treating infectious disease

The risk of dying from coronavirus after being hospitalised has plummeted since the peak of the outbreak, suggesting doctors are getting better at treating it.

Analysis by Oxford University shows that 6 per cent of people admitted to hospitals in England with the virus died at the beginning of April.

But the figures show by June 15, just 1.5 per cent of Covid-19 patients were dying of the disease – a quarter of the level at the peak of the crisis.

Oxford statisticians can’t pin down exactly why survival rates have fallen so much – but they believe doctors may be becoming better at treating the virus.

In April there was no approved medicine to treat Covid-19, a disease still shrouded in mystery after jumping from animals to humans at the end of 2019. 

But now the NHS now has two drugs at its disposal to treat critically-ill patients – the Ebola medicine remdesivir and anti-inflammatory steroid dexamethasone.

Dexamethasone, a £5 steroid that has existed for decades, was the first drug proven to reduce the death rate among hospitalised patients needing oxygen. 

The evidence around remdesivir is more mixed but studies have shown it helps the most critically ill people who need ventilation. 

There is probably also be fewer people catching the coronavirus in hospital than at the peak of the crisis, which may have contributed to the fall in death rates.

Hospital patients are inherently more likely to be already unwell or elderly and so are more likely to die if they do catch it. 

Analysis by Oxford University shows that 6 per cent of people admitted to hospitals in England with the virus died at the beginning of April. But the figures show that by June 15, just 1.5 per cent of Covid-19 patients were falling victim to the disease - a quarter of the level at the peak

Analysis by Oxford University shows that 6 per cent of people admitted to hospitals in England with the virus died at the beginning of April. But the figures show that by June 15, just 1.5 per cent of Covid-19 patients were falling victim to the disease – a quarter of the level at the peak

Of 10,387 people in hospital in England with Covid-19 on April 2, 644 died, giving a death rate of 6 per cent.

On June 15, 50 out of 3,270 hospital patients fell victim to the disease, which works out at roughly 1.5 per cent. 

The researchers considered whether those being admitted to hospital were younger, and so more likely to survive.

Decline in new coronavirus cases has ‘levelled off’ as data shows between 1,900 and 3,200 people are still catching Covid-19 in England each day 

Between 1,900 and 3,200 people are catching the coronavirus every day in England — but the speed at which the outbreak is shrinking has ‘levelled off’, according to data. 

The estimate is lower than last week, when two separate projections from King’s College London experts and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) ranged from between 3,200 to 3,800.  

King’s College’s COVID Symptom Tracker app predicts 1,978 people in England are getting struck down daily. The ONS, whose estimate is based on population swab testing, puts the figure at approximately 3,142. 

But statisticians cautioned the number of people infected with Covid-19 could have even gone up — from 33,000 people a fortnight ago to 51,000 on June 21, around 0.09 per cent of the population (one in 1,100 people).

The ONS explained that the extremely small sample size — the number is based only on 14 positive tests, up from 10 last week — is likely to have swayed the estimate. Experts stopped short of saying the outbreak had rebounded and started to rise again, instead saying there was no evidence it was either growing nor shrinking. 

Government advisers today claimed the R rate for the UK and England remains between 0.7 and 0.9 for the third week in a row. But they admitted it could be as high as 1.0 in the North West. Number 10’s scientific advisory panel SAGE today also revealed the growth rate — how the number of new daily cases is changing day-by-day — is still between minus four and minus two per cent. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week dramatically unwound the coronavirus lockdown, bringing the country out of ‘hibernation’ — with a return for pubs, haircuts and weddings and family and friends getting the green light to meet up indoors for the first time in months. 

The Prime Minister said he wanted to ‘make life easier’ after an ‘incredibly tough time’ with bars, restaurants, cinemas and hairdressers in England able to get back up and running from July 4 – dubbed ‘Super Saturday’.

But the data showed there are actually now more deaths over the age of 60 than at the peak in early April. 

Jason Oke, from the University of Oxford, was one of the statisticians behind the UK analysis. 

He told The Times that he was initially uneasy about releasing the analysis, adding: ‘We sat on it. We had a good discussion about it to try and work out all the different ways we could be wrong.

‘Then we thought we should put it out there — it’s what we’ve observed. The caveat is, we don’t really understand why this is happening. But it’s happening.’

Other hard-hit countries, including the US and Italy are seeing similar trends in their death rates. 

Dr Oke admitted the newly-approved drugs may be partly behind the fall, but he said there would be other factors at play.

He warned a less optimistic explanation may be that a large number of mild to moderately ill patients were turned away from hospitals in April.

He said: ‘Maybe early on the pandemic, when we thought we would be overrun, we took only the severest cases.’  

If only the sickest patients – who are more likely to die from Covid – were being treated, then this could skew the death rate upwards, even if there was no difference in the actual survival rate. 

The total number of people dying with Covid-19 in English hospitals each week has fallen by 4.3 per cent a day, meaning numbers have halved every 16 days.

Deaths hit their peak of 899 on April 8 but have since fallen to just 50 on the week ending June 15. 

The number of people in hospital with coronavirus has also fallen from a peak of 15,702 on April 10 to 2,891 on the June 19 – meaning numbers have halved every month. 

Data shows that between 1,900 and 3,200 people are catching the coronavirus every day in England — but the speed at which the outbreak is shrinking has ‘levelled off’, according to data. 

The estimate is lower than last week, when two separate projections from King’s College London experts and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) ranged from between 3,200 to 3,800. 

King’s College’s COVID Symptom Tracker app predicts 1,978 people in England are getting struck down daily. The ONS, whose estimate is based on population swab testing, puts the figure at approximately 3,142. 

But statisticians cautioned the number of people infected with Covid-19 could have even gone up — from 33,000 people a fortnight ago to 51,000 on June 21, around 0.09 per cent of the population (one in 1,100 people).

The ONS explained that the extremely small sample size — the number is based only on 14 positive tests, up from 10 last week — is likely to have swayed the estimate. 

King's College London 's COVID Symptom Tracker app estimates that just 2,341 Britons are being struck down with the coronavirus every day. Last week they used this data to estimate that there were 3,612 people catching the virus every day in Britain and roughly 4,942 people the week before that. The figure was higher than 11,000 per day a month ago

King’s College London ‘s COVID Symptom Tracker app estimates that just 2,341 Britons are being struck down with the coronavirus every day. Last week they used this data to estimate that there were 3,612 people catching the virus every day in Britain and roughly 4,942 people the week before that. The figure was higher than 11,000 per day a month ago

Experts stopped short of saying the outbreak had rebounded and started to rise again, instead saying there was no evidence it was either growing nor shrinking. 

Government advisers today claimed the R rate for the UK and England remains between 0.7 and 0.9 for the third week in a row. But they admitted it could be as high as 1.0 in the North West. Number 10’s scientific advisory panel SAGE today also revealed the growth rate — how the number of new daily cases is changing day-by-day — is still between minus four and minus two per cent. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week dramatically unwound the coronavirus lockdown, bringing the country out of ‘hibernation’ — with a return for pubs, haircuts and weddings and family and friends getting the green light to meet up indoors for the first time in months. 

The Prime Minister said he wanted to ‘make life easier’ after an ‘incredibly tough time’ with bars, restaurants, cinemas and hairdressers in England able to get back up and running from July 4 – dubbed ‘Super Saturday’.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk

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