We begin a discussion on an issue making headlines.
The number of fatalities caused by COVID-19 have been declining, but new infections continue to occur.
Nevertheless, governments and their populations have been itching to ease restrictions.
Countries have been loosening quarantine measures and letting non-essential businesses reopen, but there are concerns about a second wave.
South Korea, Singapore and China, which contained the virus at an early stage, have recently experienced a resurgence of cluster infections.
The WHO warned Europe this week that it should brace itself for a stronger and potentially deadlier second wave of COVID-19.
To discuss what a second wave would look like and if it's inevitable, we connect with Professor Peter Collignon at Australian National University Medical School, who is also an infectious Diseases physician and microbiologist at Canberra Hospital.
We also have joining us, Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, Professor of Health Policy and Management at City University New York, who is a systems modeler and a Senior Contributor for Forbes.
Prof. Collignon: South Korea, which eased social distancing requirements this month saw a spike in cases linked to nightclubs in Seoul. We even saw a fourth-hand transmission take place. Singapore, Hong Kong and China have also seen a resurgence of cases. This has given rise to worries about a dreaded second wave. Is this really the making of a second wave, and what lessons can we take away from the sudden surge of cases?
Prof. Lee: The Trump administration has been adamant about the necessity of reopening economies and your Health Secretary Alex Azar said that if lockdowns continue, it would hurt the capacity to address other health needs. But hospitals are already overwhelmed as it is and a report you recently published in Health Affairs shows how medical costs could surge to the hundreds of billions of dollars if coronavirus infections soar significantly. Is it wise, then, for governments to push for business as usual for hte sake of the economy?
Prof. Collignon: Based on the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, some have projected we'll see a stronger, a more deadly version of the virus in the second wave, especially in European countries. Does this mean more infections and fatalities will occur? And in countries like South Korea and Singapore, where few people have immunity, would a second wave be more severe?
Prof. Lee: If the number of cases grows, how will this affect the response to a second wave? It seems each country or region has its own standard of easing lockdowns. THe WHO has called for a scientific, or evidence-based approach to easing restrictions. Should the reproduction number be the standard-bearer?
Prof. Collignon: In the midst of these concerns, students in Europe are going back to school and South Korea is also having high school students resume offline classes from Wednesday. There seems there are mixed opinions about this.
What does science tell us about how children's chances of being infected? What precautions should be taken as schools reopen?
Prof. Lee: How can governments be better prepared than they were the first time? And until a vaccine is out and ready for use, can we expect to see repeated waves of lockdowns with a resurgence of infections?
That's all we have time for today but it's been an informative discussion.
Thank you for joining us Professor Peter Collignon and Professor Bruce Y. Lee from Canberra and New York.