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Virus "second wave" warning as nations ease lockdowns


Countries where coronavirus infections are declining could still face an “immediate second peak” if they let up too soon on measures to halt the outbreak, the World Health Organisation says.

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The world is still in the middle of the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak, WHO emergencies head Mike Ryan told an online briefing, noting that while cases are declining in many countries they are still increasing in Central and South America, South Asia and Africa.

Ryan said epidemics often come in waves, which means that outbreaks could come back later this year in places where the first wave has subsided.

There was also a chance that infection rates could rise again more quickly if measures to halt the first wave were lifted too soon.

“When we speak about a second wave classically what we often mean is there will be a first wave of the disease by itself, and then it recurs months later. And that may be a reality for many countries in a number of months’ time,” Ryan said.

“But we need also to be cognisant of the fact that the disease can jump up at any time. We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now it is going to keep going down and we get a number of months to get ready for a second wave. We may get a second peak in this wave.”

He said countries in Europe and North America should “continue to put in place the public health and social measures, the surveillance measures, the testing measures and a comprehensive strategy to ensure that we continue on a downwards trajectory and we don’t have an immediate second peak”.

Many European countries and US states have taken steps in recent weeks to lift lockdown measures that curbed the spread of the disease but caused severe harm to economies.

Pakistan considering new lockdown after surge

Pakistan may reinforce its lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus amid a spike in infections and deaths three weeks after restrictions were lifted.

Health authorities and regional governments expressed alarm as Pakistan’s confirmed coronavirus caseload surged past 56,000, with nearly 1200 related deaths.

The number of confirmed cases has more than doubled from 23,000 on May 6, when the country lifted its lockdown.

New reported cases appeared to spike over the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr this weekend.

“We might go for a nationwide lockdown again because the virus is spreading rapidly,” Pakistan’s Special Assistant for Health Zafar Mirza said, blaming the fresh wave of infections on the population not adhering to social distancing.

It comes as Britain prepares to reopen thousands of high street shops, department stores and shopping centres next month

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that all non-essential retail could open from June 15 if the government’s tests are met.

“Today, I want to give the retail sector notice of our intentions to reopen shops, so they too can get ready,” Johnson said. “There are careful but deliberate steps on the road to rebuilding our country.”

The government said shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios, and indoor markets, would be expected to be able to reopen from June 15, giving them three weeks to prepare.

It said that businesses would only be able to open from those dates once they had completed a risk assessment, in consultation with trade union representatives or workers, and are confident they are managing the risks.

The United Kingdom’s death toll from confirmed coronavirus cases has risen to 36,914, up 121 from a day earlier, official figures showed on Monday.

Spain toll drops

In Spain, the coronavirus death toll has been revised down by nearly 2000 to 26,834, after health officials rechecked data provided by regions.

The total number of cases recorded since the outbreak began has also been revised down, and is now 235,400 – 372 fewer than on Sunday, it said.

Just 50 people died of the virus over the past week, it added, a marked fall from previous weeks.

The total number of deaths has now been rising by less than 100 a day for over a week, compared with a peak of 950 in early April.

The daily numbers often include people who had died days or even weeks earlier, the ministry said.

Health emergency co-ordinator Fernando Simon said checks of the data had shown that some deaths had previously been counted twice and that some people who were initially thought to be infected had turned out not to have the coronavirus.

“We are correcting the series, validating data, eliminating duplicate cases, eliminating cases that were notified as probable coronavirus, suspected cases that were not confirmed,” he told a news briefing.

“These are very real data that show a very favourable evolution,” he added.

-with AAP

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