Second Wave Problem

Second Wave

Second Wave Problem?

A look at the global coronavirus case numbers shows: the curve continues to climb steeply. While people in Asia are already talking about the third wave, Europe is preparing for the second wave. But what does the term mean? America cannot decide if it even has a problem?

So the more prominent questions are? When is it coming? What are the consequences? Opinions vary widely. To be sure about one point, there is no precise definition or timeline anywhere?

Events are being canceled, pubs/restaurants remain closed, the mask requirement is fully reintroduced, regional “lock-downs” are being reimposed – in many countries, the coronavirus measures are currently being tightened again – all in order, as politicians always emphasize, against one to fight the “second wave.”

A second wave, which in the opinion of some will either “not yet,” “soon,” or “in the near future,” but which in the opinion of others has already occurred “recently” or “long ago.” And then some experts generally advise against the concept of a second wave, as this would convey the wrong picture – instead, humanity would be on a “permanent wave” that swells up and down. In July, the WHO spoke of the coming “second high point of the first wave” because of the increasing number of cases.

No precise definition

In principle, we are talking about waves, because the case numbers are often shown in curves that look like waves, said Heiner Fangerau from the Institute for the History, Theory, and Ethics of Medicine at the University of Düsseldorf. Pandemics did not necessarily run in waves, however.

“The plague was rampant in the Middle Ages for more than seven years, there you can not speak of waves, and neither with cholera.” The term wave can probably be traced back to the Spanish flu, which broke out in the spring of 1918. In autumn and winter, however, more people fell ill than before. The fact is: the term wave is not precisely defined.

“Above-average increase in the number of infections.”

In many countries, after a brief decline, there was again an increase in new infections and associated deaths during the summer. In connection with this renewed increase, warnings were often given about the second wave.

But how high does the number of cases have to be able to speak of one? In which period must the number of infections increase by which factor? And what role does regional expansion play in this? All of these questions still seem unanswered.

There is no precise definition of a second wave that Health Minister Rudolf Anschober warns The Ministry of Health also denies whether there is a concrete definition for a second wave. “This means an above-average increase in the number of people infected with COVID-19.” 

Various factors are decisive.

The German Robert Koch Institute (RKI) does not explain either, but here too, it says: “It must be expected that the number of cases will rise again and the second COVID-19 wave will occur.” At least several factors are listed that could promote such a situation.

For example, a second wave depends on possible seasonal effects, i.e., whether the virus spreads worse in summer due to the higher temperatures. Compliance with protective measures, people’s travel behavior, and the quick detection of cases, clusters, outbreaks, and contact persons are also decisive. Experts also assume that the virus will spread more easily in winter when more people are again close together.

Second wave survey

According to a survey, eight out of ten respondents in Austria expect a second wave in autumn or winter. Above all, however, individual behavior plays an important role. The German Ministry of Health argues similarly: To prevent “phase 4”, which means the risk of a second wave in autumn, the population must “again more closely comply with the basic measures such as mouth and nose protection and the minimum distance.”

New dynamics in the second wave

Without these measures, the virus could spread uncontrollably, according to the RKI. Due to the high infectiousness of the virus and the lack of immunity in the population, “an exponential increase in new infections and, under certain circumstances, a powerful second wave” can occur again very quickly. And further: “Several subsequent waves of different dimensions are theoretically conceivable.”

Some experts assume that a second outbreak from September could be significantly worse than the first – among other things because of the coincidence with the flu season. Also, according to the German virologist Christian Drosten, there is another crucial difference. While outbreaks would have occurred locally in isolation in the first wave and the virus penetrated the population from outside, the outbreaks in a second wave could set in at many points at the same time, out of the population. Infections could consequently occur more widely and simultaneously, which, of course, also makes it more challenging to track them accurately.

Restricting measures “absolutely prevent.”

The German Ministry of Health describes the possible consequences of a second wave as follows:

 “In the worst-case scenario, there could be an uncontrolled increase in the number of people infected with COVID-19 and the resulting consequences (sometimes severe disease or even an increase in the number of deaths from SARS-CoV- 2, utilization of the capacities of the health areas). “

The WHO emergency aid coordinator Michael Ryan sees it differently: “We can argue academically about a second wave, but that is not the discussion we need.” It is about suppressing the virus, with all the necessary measures, “wave out of it Globally.”