Will there be a second wave of coronavirus in the UK – and would we go back into lockdown?

It's been discussed as a possibility for a while...
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  • When the UK went into lockdown all those months ago, it was to control the spread of the coronavirus, which was escalating at a worrying rate.

    Now, measures are easing, with pubs and cinemas reopening, and family members now able to reunite. But despite this, rumours of a second wave of the virus have been prevalent ever since the first wave.

    The public have been told that social distancing and hygiene measures are still vital to continue to reduce the spread of the virus. And, local lockdowns, such as the one in Leicester, are being put in place to control any outbreaks. But how likely is a full second wave in the UK – and would it be as bad as the first?

    Is there a second wave coming to the UK?

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock today admitted on Sky News that he is ‘concerned’ about the potential of a second wave in the UK, after noting a rise in coronavirus cases in Europe.

    He also explained that today England’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, will be announcing a series of new measures for the UK.

    Matt said, “I am worried about a second wave. I think you can see a second wave starting to roll across Europe, and we’ve got to do everything we can to prevent it from reaching these shores, and to tackle it.

    Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

    “The measures that the chief medical officer will set out later are part of that.

    He also appeared to speak on the recent quarantine imposed on people coming from Spain, saying, “So too are the measures we’re taking, for instance to ensure that we don’t directly bring cases back to this country where there’s a big spike in cases.

    “So absolutely on a second wave – it is something I worry about, and I worry about it because we can see it happening.”

    In fact, The Lancet, a medical journal, warned back in April about the possibility of a second wave of infections of coronavirus restrictions were relaxed too soon.

    Is there a second wave sweeping across Europe?

    Matt Hancock is not the first member of the government to speak on a second wave however. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson explained that he believes there are ‘signs of a second wave’ across Europe too.

    Of course, quarantining arrivals from Spain into the UK suggests that the country is being particularly hit by a rise in Covid-19 cases.

    Local authorities have authorised a stay at home order for parts of spain, including the Catalonia region, which also includes Barcelona.

    second wave in Spain?

    An ice-cream shop in Barcelona. Credit: Getty Images

    President Quim Torra told the media that the area had recorded 5,487 infections last week, compared to a lower 3,485 infections the week before, suggesting how far cases may be spiking.

    In comparison to the UK at this time, the Office for National Statistics said that in the week up to 19th July, around one in 2,000 people were estimated to have coronavirus in the community in England. The week before, the figure was one in 2,300, suggesting the decline in cases had “levelled off.”

    But Spain is not the only country seeing a rise in infections.

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    The Local, a French news website, reported that the French Health Minister Olivier Véran has warned that while there is not a second wave of the virus there yet, cases do seem to be on the rise.

    He told French daily Le Parisien, “Over the past few days we have seen the number of positive cases rise sharply after it fell for 13 weeks,”

    The national health agency there, Santé Publique France has also said that the increase in cases does not necessarily reflect a jump in testing, “but a real increase in the number of symptomatic cases.”

    Could local lockdowns continue to be the way forward – for the UK and the rest of Europe?

    Local lockdowns have already been imposed on parts of England. Leicester was the first to be put into local lockdown after a spike in infections, and was not permitted to reopen venues like restaurants and pubs at the same time as the rest of England.

    Now, Oldham has seen a ‘rapid increase’ in positive Covid-19 cases, and so a series of new restrictions have been put in place there. Oldham residents should now not have any non-essential visitors inside their homes, and need to strictly maintain the old, two-metre social distancing when they are outside. The new rules also mean that anyone shielding will need to continue to do so until 14th August.

    Credit: Richard Baker/In Pictures via Getty Images

    Here, local lockdowns are being utilised to try and prevent a second wave in the UK. And they’re also being used across Europe.

    In Spain, certain regions are being locked down in order to control the spread of the virus. For example, restrictions were re-imposed on the north-western region of Galicia, affecting 70,000 people. And of course, a similar lockdown was brought in the north-eastern region of Catalonia.

    So far, these have been considered a good way to keep the virus under control, but their continuing success remains to be seen.

    Will we go back into full lockdown in the UK?

    It is not clear whether the UK would return to the full lockdown we experience back in March, April and the early part of May. When lockdown measures were first easing in May, the government made clear that they would like to avoid another full lockdown as much as possible, in order to ensure the economy remains intact. Instead, local lockdowns are so far the preferred way of containing the virus.

    In fact, one expert has said that local lockdowns should continue to be the way forward, in order to avoid a ‘national lockdown’.

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    Speaking on GMB, Dr Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter, said, “We never properly conquered the first wave.

    “All we did was have a partial lockdown and because of the partial lockdown, case numbers went down. Then we had the premature lifting of the lockdown, and as we have seen, the case numbers have started to go up.

    “There will not be a national lockdown. We need to start practicing the local outbreak plans now and implement them because that’s what we’ll have to do going forward.”

    Another expert, Professor Susan Michie, also stated that a working test and trace system is also vital to avoid another national lockdown.

    What can we do to protect ourselves against a second wave?

    As cases begin to spike across Europe, it seems it’s more important than ever for us to continue being vigilant with hygiene measures and social distancing.

    So how can we continue to protect ourselves and others from a resurgence in infections in the UK?

    • Continue to wear face masks in public settings, especially where social distancing is harder. Face covering are now mandatory in many enclosed public spaces – see more information on where to wear them here.
    • Keep practising important hygiene measures – washing hands for 20 seconds at regular intervals, and when you return home from the outside. Use hand sanitisers as much as possible when outside, too.
    • Maintain social distancing – the current guidelines suggest one metre plus, but if you can social distance to two metres, you should.
    • Avoid big gatherings – currently, gatherings of other 30 people are still illegal.