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Possibility of second wave of Coronavirus real, difficult to completely lift lockdown till vaccine available: Study in The Lancet

The Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic has assumed catastrophic proportions ever since it broke out of the wet markets of the city in China. Certain properties of the virus, such as its long incubation period and its ability to survive for a prolonged period of time on surfaces, combined with the fact that it can also be transmitted through aerosolized form makes the contagion extremely deadly.

Countries will have to closely monitor their territories for new infections and adjust the controls they have imposed to curb the spread of the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic until the invention of a vaccine if they wish to end the lockdown, a new study based on China’s efforts to control the disease has claimed. The study also warns of a possible second wave of the pandemic if the lockdown is lifted even if the first has been adequately suppressed. The study was published in The Lancet.

The study says, “The findings from our modelling impact assessment suggest that the comprehensive package of non-pharmaceutical interventions China undertook, including social distancing and population behavioural change, has substantially reduced transmissibility of COVID-19 across the country. The daily number of local COVID-19 cases has dropped substantially to nearly zero in areas outside Hubei since late February; however, a second wave of COVID-19 transmission is possible because of viral reintroduction (particularly international importation—eg, from Italy or elsewhere in Europe, Iran, USA, and other rapidly burgeoning secondary epicentres2) that has been exponentially increasing since March, 2020, as well as viral transmissibility that might rebound with the gradual resumption of economic activities, and thus normal levels of social mixing.”

“Close monitoring of the instantaneous effective reproduction number and real-time tuning of policy interventions to ensure a manageable second wave remains the over-riding public health priority.” the study adds. It noted, “Keeping close watch of real-time transmissibility will also help to ensure the infection prevalence does not exceed the surge capacity of the health system.” The study also found that the fatality rates varied widely between provinces in China.

The study concluded that “the interventions China implemented in response to the COVID-19 outbreak had a real and dramatic effect on interrupting transmission in all areas outside of Hubei. As economic activity continues to resume in the coming weeks, real-time assessment by monitoring the instantaneous effective reproduction number could allow policy makers to tune relaxation decisions to maintain transmissibility to below the self-sustaining threshold of 1. CFRs (Case Fatality Rates) vary between provinces, which might be determined by health-care availability, quality, and surge capacity. Therefore, health services planning should be optimised to minimise mortality related to COVID-19.”

Prof Joseph T Wu from the University of Hong Kong, who co-led the research, warns that the possibility of a second wave of the pandemic is very real. “Although control policies such as physical distancing and behavioural change are likely to be maintained for some time, proactively striking a balance between resuming economic activities and keeping the reproductive number below one is likely to be the best strategy until effective vaccines become widely available,” said Wu. “Even in the most prosperous and well-resourced megacities like Beijing and Shanghai, healthcare resources are finite, and services will struggle with a sudden increase in demand”, says senior author Prof Gabriel M Leung from the University of Hong Kong. “Our findings highlight the importance of ensuring that local healthcare systems have adequate staffing and resources to minimise Covid-related deaths.”

The Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic has assumed catastrophic proportions ever since it broke out of the wet markets of the city in China. Certain properties of the virus, such as its long incubation period and its ability to survive for a prolonged period of time on surfaces, combined with the fact that it can be transmitted through asymptomatic carriers and can also be transmitted through aerosolized form makes the contagion extremely deadly. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that the Wuhan Coronavirus could damage vital organs which makes it all the more deadly.

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