The Worldwide situation due to novel coronavirus since its outbreak in china is getting worse with each passing day. To flatten the curve, countries around the world have adopted various unprecedented measures.
The shutdown and social distancing have slowed down the rate of infection to a larger extent but at the cost of government’s revenue, and business operations leading to the economic crisis. Besides hurting the economy, the lockdown and social distancing have also caused psychological trauma to some people.
Although many countries have eased the restrictions on movement, allowing certain industries to open up and conduct business, and it may seem a positive sign now. However, there remain some bigger questions like for how long the pandemic would last and if the humankind should be prepared for another wave of coronavirus.
Coronavirus and its future waves
The preventive measures opted by the governments worldwide have somehow slowed down the pandemic transmission, but with the ease in restriction recently the chances of the future waves look inevitable. Just like the Spanish flu of 1918, it will not be wrong to expect a second wave of COVID-19 too. The fact that the second wave of Spanish flu caused more deaths than the first wave makes it more fearsome.
In America, it is expected that the second wave of coronavirus might coincide with the flu season. In the US, most cases of flu occur between the month of December and February ( i.e during the fall and winter season). In the year 2018-2019, around 39,000,000 – 56,000,000 Americans suffered from flu illnesses and around 410,000 – 740,000 persons with flu were hospitalized. The second wave is likely to be more dangerous than the existing situation as most of the symptoms are the same for both diseases, which might again create misdiagnosis. The situation might become very critical for the health care worker as they have to deal with both diseases at the same time, with the available resources.
Scientists and researchers across the world have put forward different opinions and views on the future waves of coronavirus infections. It has been opined that with the rise in temperature, probably during the summer months, northern hemisphere countries are expected to observe less number of cases, as the virus is less likely to survive in warmer climates. However, with the winter season in the line, there might be an increase in diagnosed COVID-19 cases. But as of now, the fact whether warmer environment conditions will have a definite effect on virus transmission or not is debatable. However, if the speculation of seasonal variation of coronavirus does have some authenticity, the second wave would be a monster wave of coronavirus with soaring cases of infections.
The other potential aspect that could be a factor behind the second wave is the incessant mutations in the genome of SARS-CoV-2. There have been cases of different strains traced in different parts of the world that depict the mutation rate of the virus. If the coronavirus mutates the person who has already been infected has the chances of getting reinfected rendering the antibodies developed relatively irrelevant.
In fact, as of now, it is also unclear for how long the antibody remains effective in the infected person’s body (for the original stain of COVID-19). Moreover, the efforts put by scientists and researchers to develop vaccines will be left useless if the coronavirus undergoes mutation.
Future waves and plausible scenarios
The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), which helps spreading awareness regarding public health preparedness and emerging infectious disease responses, has presented three possible Scenarios for the COVID-19:
In the first scenario, the first wave of COVID-19, which already in the motion would be followed by a series of other repetitive smaller waves that might occur throughout the summer and is expected to follow the same pattern for one to two year period before diminishing in 2021.
According to the second speculation, a larger wave in the fall or winter is expected to follow the first one. After the second wave, several smaller subsequent waves might occur in the following year – 2021. The second case is somewhat in similar lines with the 1918-19 and 1957-58 pandemic. In such cases, the governments need to be extra cautious and take draconian mitigation measures to slow down the impact during the winter season.
However, considering the third case scenario, various small waves called “slow burn” might occur after the first wave of COVID-19. The slow burn waves will not have a clear wave pattern. The wave pattern, in this case, will depend on the geographical location, mitigation & precautionary steps adopted by respective governments.
Until we have an effective vaccine, there is a constant risk of the second wave or third wave looming over the human race. As of now, adopting social distancing and shutdowns appear to be the only reliable option to contain the infection spread, along with intensifying diagnosis, testing and contact tracing. A single person may infect a large number of people in a public space, so to quickly identify, isolate and treat the infected person becomes important to control the further spread of disease. Similarly, others measure that every individual can practice at an individual level such as maintaining hygiene, frequent handwashing, and using masks while going outside in public places would also mitigate the risk of infection.