Health experts in the UK anticipate a second wave of the coronavirus to hit in July, leaving them wondering if the UK is truly prepared for the virus that has already claimed the lives of more than 43,500 residents.
On 23 June 2020, Boris Johnson announced a three-phase plan for easing lockdown restrictions. Within a short period, the British Medical Journal published an open letter signed by the chair of the British Medical Association, along with presidents of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons, Physicians, GPs, and Nursing. The letter warned that immediate action would be required to stop further deaths.
In the letter, the experts wrote, “While the future shape of the pandemic in the UK is hard to predict, the available evidence indicates that local flare-ups are increasingly likely and a second wave a real risk.”
The Department of Health reports that it will continue to provide the NHS with “whatever it needs,” while continuing to base their decisions on scientific advice.
What Changes are Ahead?
Beginning 4 July 2020, cinemas, hairdressers, pubs, and restaurants will be allowed to reopen, along with indoor animal exhibits, theme parks, skating rinks, museums, and galleries. Also, places of worship will be allowed to have services, as long as no singing takes place, and 30 people will be allowed to attend weddings. In some cases, there are some rules regarding the use of protective measures, including proper cleaning, that must be followed.
Additionally, Johnson reported a “one-metre plus” rule will replace the current 2m social distancing requirement. People are still encouraged to take other precautions, such as wearing a mask, to help prevent transmission.
However, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are choosing to continue with the 2m social distancing rule.
Almost immediately after the lockdown changes were revealed, health leaders issued a statement requesting a “rapid and forward-looking assessment” to determine the UK’s level of preparedness. The experts did admit that the “future shape of the pandemic in the UK is hard to predict.” but all evidence points to a second wave being a “real risk.’ After all, Anglesey, Cleckheaton, and Leicester have already seen an increase in clusters of the virus.
Is the UK Ready?
There is no doubt that the UK has come a long way since the first UK case of the coronavirus was diagnosed in late January 2020. Testing is much more readily available and a network of contact tracers is in place to identify anyone potentially infected. Unfortunately, there is still a significant turnaround time regarding test results and the app linked to the tracing system isn’t ready to go quite yet.
However, efforts are being made to get the app up and running and improve test turnaround times, which can help keep the number of UK residents infected down. This is especially true if people continue to follow social distancing rules and self-isolate if they have been in close contact with an infected person or have tested positive themselves.
According to a spokesperson from the Department of Health, “Effective local management of an outbreak is the first line of protection against a second wave. In the event the local response is not sufficient to contain outbreaks, the government would reintroduce measures if necessary to contain the virus and stop it spreading to the wider population.”
When revealing the lockdown changes, Mr Johnson stated that he did not anticipate “a risk of a second peak of infections that might overwhelm the NHS.” He was also quick to point out that all of these lockdown changes were “reversible” if necessary.