As Lockdown Tightens In The North East, We Asked The Experts How Nervous We Should Be About A Second Wave

'We should be very nervous about the virus as honestly we are still learning about Covid-19,’

Mother putting mask on daughter

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

The government has announced a tightening of lockdown rules in the North East of England today due to 'concerning rates of infection'. Impacting seven council areas including Newcastle, Sunderland and Gateshead, the restrictions mean almost two million people are banned from mixing with other households and face a 10pm curfew in pubs.

'The data says that we must act now,' health secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons earlier this afternoon. Sunderland's infection rate of 103 cases per 100,000 people is particularly worrying with the government saying they are taking 'swift action' after local councils raised concerns.

South Tyneside, Northumberland, North Tyneside, and County Durham are included in the restrictions and so cannot mix with people outside their house or support bubbles. With measures in place from midnight, restaurants, bars and pubs will have to shut between 10pm and 5am.

It comes only a week after the government tightened lockdown measures nationally after a rise in Covid-19 cases led to fears of a second wave of coronavirus. Across the whole of England, it was made illegal to gather in groups of more than six people, indoors or outdoors.

Newly diagnosed cases of Covid-19 topped 3,000 on numerous occasions over the past week with the average rate of new infections four times higher than in mid-July. The rise has caused panic among the public, prompting many to ‘second wave’ on Google in fears we’re headed towards a second lockdown of businesses being closed once more.

While the government has expressed their keenness to avoid a second full lockdown, ministers are considering imposing a national ‘curfew’ as imposed in the North East, according to The Telegraph. It was used in hospitality venues in Bolton earlier, with venues ordered to close between 10pm and 5am after a surge in infections.

But what do the experts say about this rise in cases and how worried should be really be about a second wave? We asked two top doctors all your burning questions.

How nervous should we be about the rise in cases?

‘People should be nervous about the rise in cases,’ NHS ICU doctor Janitha Gowribalan said. ‘It seems that currently, the younger adult population has been mainly affected and we know symptoms overall can be more mild which explains the low number of hospital admissions. However, as we have seen in other countries, transmission from the younger adult population has the potential to filter through to the more vulnerable parts of our society such as the elderly and we may again see an increase in admissions and deaths.

‘I think we should be very nervous about the virus as honestly we are still learning about Covid-19,’ Dr. Judith Agwada-Akeru, a consultant at London's Whipps Cross Hospital said. ‘Scientists from time have predicted higher mortality this winter.’

How can the rise in cases be explained and does this mean there’ll be a second wave?

‘We knew that once strict measures adopted had been relaxed that there would be a real risk in a further rise in the number of cases and the potential for a second wave,’ Dr. Gowribalan continued. ‘By examining the current rise in daily number of confirmed infections, a “second wave” may become a reality.’

‘I believe that as we're getting tested more, we're seeing a perceived rise in infection rates,’ said Dr. Agwada-Akeru. ‘Hence what we see as a rise in incidence is simply a reflection of the true number of daily infections. So the more we test, the more we will find positive people. We anticipate a second wave this winter but perhaps not in as severe a form as we saw earlier. We are currently seeing a reduction in mortality rate due to Covid in more recent infections.

‘Possible hypothesis to explain this include, first, perhaps those most vulnerable have unfortunately succumbed to the infection in the first wave,’ she continued. ‘Second, herd immunity means less severe clinical manifestations, bearing in mind the significant number of antibody positive people following the first wave.’

Should we all be more rigorous about getting tested?

‘I think only those frail, particularly high risk people and care givers and hospital workers should be tested,’ said Dr. Agwada-Akeru. ‘We should instead focus on vigorous preventative measures such as social distancing, the use of masks if symptomatic and reducing over-crowding in public facilities. Our emphasis should be on reducing the volume of the viral pathogen spread, a well explored hypothesis suggests the severity of Covid-19 disease is related to the dose of infecting viral load and viremia.’

‘The painful bitter truth is that to survive as a human race and beat this we need to develop herd immunity or tolerance,’ she continued. ‘This does not confer complete indifference to the infection but likely reduced severity of the disease process, we will most likely all get exposed to it in one way or another.’

What is your expert advice on how to protect ourselves against Covid-19?

‘The message remains the same, if you have symptoms: get tested and isolate,’ Dr. Gowribalan said. ‘People should not be relaxed. We are still in a global pandemic and we should continue to follow advice and continue to socially distance and adopt good hand hygiene. If we have learnt anything in the last few months is that we all have a duty and responsibility to protect yourself and others to avoid the unnecessary loss of life amongst our most vulnerable.’

During flu season people may have common cold symptoms of a cough or runny nose, further spreading the virus.

‘To protect yourself my advice would as follows,’ added Dr. Agwada-Akeru. ‘Avoid unnecessary visits to public places particularly this winter. If you're unwell it is your civic duty to isolate at home to reduce the risk to others. If you must go out while unwell, wear face covering, wash your hands constantly. If you are vulnerable, observe the same above and shield at home where possible. Ensure that you take all prescribed medications regularly and that you're up to date with your medicals.’

‘In simple terms, this virus has not gone away,’ Dr. Agwada-Akeru concludes. ‘It is presumably still as potent, it is expected to mutate to a more potent version. Herd immunity should provide your immune system some knowledge of the virus which means that until we have a vaccine you have a small possibility of mounting a defence. Avoid all unnecessary contact with others while we are still searching for more information about the virus. Remember that many will be asymptomatic carriers who during the flu season may also have the common cold with symptoms of cough or runny nose, further spreading the virus.’

Read More:

Giving Us Hope: Three Women Who Are Working On The Coronavirus Vaccine

Coronavirus And The Immune System: What You Need To Know

Stop Telling Your Kids to Stop Worrying About Covid

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