Second wave ‘will happen in next few weeks’ if virus not suppressed, expert says

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 24:  Prime minister Boris Johnson wears a face mask as he visits Tollgate Medical Centre in Beckton on July 24, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Jeremy Selwyn - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson reportedly fears a second wave of COVID-19 within two weeks. (Jeremy Selwyn – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

A second wave of COVID-19 could take hold in the UK within “a few weeks” if the virus is not suppressed, an expert has warned.

Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute medical research centre, made his remarks as the Daily Mail reported that Boris Johnson fears a resurgence within two weeks.

The paper reports that the PM’s worry comes as the weekly average of new coronavirus cases rose by 28% from three weeks ago.

As the government told visitors to Spain they must quarantine upon returning to the UK, Johnson warned: “I’m afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic.”

Prof Naismith said: “We all need to be clear what we mean when we discuss ‘second wave’.

“The UK has never been free from infection – we have had hundreds of cases per day every day since March. However, the number of cases measured today are not comparable to those in detected March.”

He added that testing in the UK is better than March, when the virus was spreading so rapidly that the country was put into lockdown.

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“We and other countries are detecting young people with COVID-19 – in February we never noticed them,” he said.

“It seems likely that the virus spreads in this group first but with few symptoms and little illness.

“We know the virus will spread in time from young to old or more vulnerable [peopl]) where we will see hospitalisation, severe illness and death. This will happen in a few weeks if we don’t keep the virus suppressed.”

Prof Naismith said isolation of positive COVID-19 cases will be the most effective way of tackling the outbreak and that this should come with support for young people who can endure “disproportionately heavy financial and life sacrifices” from quarantine.

Read more: 'Negligence to blame for coronavirus infection spike in Germany'

Financial support and free hotel stays for isolation are among his suggestions.

“What I fear is that if we fail to check this flare-up, we will head into the winter months with a high level of circulating virus,” he warned.

EMBARGOED TO 0001 WEDNESDAY JULY 1 File photo dated 28/3/2020 of an NHS worker being tested for coronavirus at a temporary testing station in the car park of Chessington World of Adventures in Chessington, Greater London. Wednesday marks 100 days since first full day of UK lockdown and six months since China alerted WHO to Wuhan cases.
Testing and tracing is seen as a key component of keeping the virus's spread under control. (PA Images)

“With the normal winter illnesses (coughs, colds, flu) and greater indoor living, we could then see a return to exponential growth in COVID-19 cases that overwhelms the NHS and requires complete lockdown.

“This is what I term a second wave. Many scientists have consistently emphasised that we have only short time to get our systems ready to prevent this.”

Meanwhile, the term second “second wave” was described as flawed by WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris.

“There seems to be this persistent belief that summer is not a problem,” she said.

“Summer is a problem. This virus likes all weathers, but what it particularly likes is jumping from one person to another when we come in close contact.

“So let's not give it that opportunity. The second wave idea, we are in the first wave. It’s going to be one big wave.”

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