Healthcare experts have warned countries around the world, which are considering phasing out lockdown restrictions, that a second-wave of infections and deaths is all-but certain.
These warnings have been issued amid the decisions taken around the world, where countries are hoping to contain the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression of the 1930s as well as the coronavirus itself. Many nations are playing a balancing act as civil unrest begins to rise.
“We are in uncharted territory,” said Dr Annelies Wilder-Smith, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, according to Al Jazeera. “Governments are having to strike a balance between this virus and the negative impacts of lockdowns on societies, including economic downturns, societal strife and mental health concerns. It’s a large experiment.”
Wafaa El-Sadr, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, said that reopening economies is a “risk and a gamble” and that “viruses don’t know borders” in reference to the idea that nations reopening will also be putting their neighbouring countries at risk, highlighting the idea that this may no longer be just a domestic issue, but one that could severely affect foreign policy.
Families in Italy were reunited for the first time in two months while Spaniards were allowed to leave their homes to exercise. In the US, many states have loosely interpreted White House guidelines and the likes of Georgia and Alabama are reopening over concerns for the economic well-being of their citizens, with some of the larger cities yet to have been affected to any great extend. There are over 1.2 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States and over 75,000 people have lost their lives, according to Johns Hopkins University data. France is also one of the nations easing restrictions, despite being one of the worst affected regions in the world, while Germany’s target is to contain infections to a one-to-one rate so that healthcare systems aren’t overrun at any point, given that the virus is likely to spread as they ease their restrictions.
However, not a single nation around the world has met the WHO’s criteria for lifting restrictions, as outlined in a note published by Oxford University researchers.
The only nations that come close to meeting these criteria are South Korea and Taiwan and even though new infections have been on a downward trajectory, standing at almost zero for weeks, Taiwan recorded eight new cases today, having contained the virus relatively well for months now.
“The intent is now to live in a compromised situation, where you live with this virus and try to find a balance between the economic standstill and the cases and deaths,” Wilder-Smith added.
Furthermore, while Africa has been relatively less affected by the virus so far, the WHO has warned that there could be between 83,000 to 190,000 deaths on the continent as a result of the virus and as many as between 29 million and 44 million, should the virus not be contained.
In the US, the daily number deaths is expected to double to 3,000 by the beginning of June.