Boris Johnson has warned COVID-19 may have “its own kinetic force” and return in a second wave across the world.
Speaking at the government’s daily coronavirus press conference on Wednesday, the prime minister and his top scientists said a “second pulse” of the coronavirus is possible.
It came after Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, warned some countries have seen a spike in new cases.
He said: “It’s fantastic news numbers are coming down across Europe and have come down to low levels in Spain. It’s also the case, if you look in other countries, they are beginning to see outbreaks as measures are relaxed.”
He pointed out that this has happened in South Korea and parts of Germany: two countries which have previously received widespread acclaim for their handling of the pandemic.
Sir Patrick continued: “What’s happened is that the first peak has been suppressed and as the measures are released, there’s a danger that comes back.
“There’s also a risk that there’s a second peak that comes as the wave goes across the world, so we’re not out of this yet.
“It is good news that as measures are being relaxed, people are generally continuing to see numbers go down, and that is obviously what we would hope for here.”
The government’s latest easing of the lockdown happened on Monday, with schools reopening and groups of six people allowed to meet outdoors.
Referring to the dangers of new outbreaks, Johnson said it was a “very important thought that there could be a second wave across the world, as though the pandemic has its own kinetic force in itself.
“It’s possible there could be a second pulse of this disease.”
Sir Patrick and Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, both agreed with this, with Prof Whitty adding: “That’s quite common.
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“Quite often with new epidemics, you get more than one wave before they are completed doing their… bad work.”
Johnson said it was “all the more reason to keep going” with the government’s current social distancing guidelines.
The PM said the government has a number of measures in place to prevent a second wave.
These include the NHS Test and Trace system, which launched last week; the 14-day quarantine for people travelling into the UK from Monday; and the government’s support of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, to “shore up poorer countries’ healthcare systems to deal with coronavirus” and stop the global spread.
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