Second coronavirus wave on the horizon, experts warn

Artist's rendition of the coronavirus
Artist's rendition of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the Covid-19 coronavirus diseaselightsourceDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

As the Netherlands begins to clamor slowly back to life after two months under 'intelligent lockdown', warning signs are beginning to surface of a second rise of Covid-19 infections in the country. "I expect we are going to get a new wave," stated Marion Koopmans, world-renowned professor of virology at the University of Groningen, who believes that the government will need to "keep a finger on the pulse" to determine its strategy.

According to Koopmans, who spoke to AD on Friday, the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) is beginning to rely less and less on the advice of virologists and epidemiologists. She predicted a new spike in infections in the coming months is only inevitable. She warned that people should not become too confident with the idea that the warmer summer months will eliminate the coronavirus before a resurgence strikes in the fall.

"There is a small study that shows something to that effect; that infectivity decreases at higher temperatures. But we don't think it is enough to stop the virus. You should not underestimate how few people are immune. Anyway, it will help a little bit. The pressure on testing will also be less," she explained.

Koopman added that, based on the current data available, there is simply not enough information to determine how severe a second wave will be. "That is also something we don't know yet. If everyone who has had it is permanently immune, it will be easy. If no one is immune, you will continue to experience large waves. Hopefully the research that is being done in many places will provide important information," said Koopman.

Much of Koopman's sentiment is shared by Jaap van Dissel, the head of public health agency RIVM. In an interview with NRC on Friday, Van Dissel pointed out that the coronavirus is likely to continue infecting people in the Netherlands for a significant amount of time into the future.

"This is not a virus that you will lose in the short term in a country like the Netherlands, with such international exposure. I think the virus is so widespread that it will often come back," he explained. Van Dissel explained further in a Saturday interview with public broadcaster NOS that relaxing measures runs the risk of people becoming more nonchalant about their own health.

The RIVM leader has long been opposed to people wearing mouth masks in public for this reason, believing that they will only lead people to become more careless about transmission and contact, and that there is "insufficient scientific support" to advise the practice in the first place. Van Dissel added that the OMT should rely on continuous assessment of the situation and adjust its reopening strategy where necessary in light of the future risk of transmission.

"[Our strategy is that] we monitor, we see what happens, and then steps can be taken on that basis. That's the logic behind what has been presented. And it has been agreed that before new steps are taken, the cabinet will in all probability ask the OMT about what can be done," said Van Dissel.