Health experts express growing dread over second wave of coronavirus deaths

Health experts are expressing growing dread over what they say is an all-but-certain second wave of deaths and infections that could force governments around the world to clamp back down, just as lockdowns loosen. “We’re risking a backslide that will be intolerable,” said Dr Ian Lipkin of Columbia University’s Centre for Infection and Immunity. In the US, with about half of the states easing their shutdowns to get their economies restarted, and mobile phone data showing that people are becoming restless and increasingly leaving home, public health authorities are worried. Dr Lipkin said he is most worried about two things: the reopening of bars, where people crowd together and lose their inhibitions, and large gatherings such as sporting events, concerts and plays. Preventing outbreaks will require aggressive contact tracing powered by armies of public health workers hundreds of thousands of people strong, which the US does not yet have, he said. Experts agree the figures understate the dimensions of the disaster because of limited testing, differences in counting the dead and concealment by some governments. This week, the researchers behind a widely cited model from the University of Washington nearly doubled their projection of deaths in the US to about 134,000 through to early August, in large part because of the easing of state stay-at-home restrictions. President Donald Trump, who has pressed hard to ease the restrictions that have throttled the economy and thrown more than 30 million Americans out of work, retreated on Wednesday over White House plans revealed a day earlier to wind down the coronavirus task force. And the US unemployment rate for April, which comes out on Friday, is expected to hit a staggering 16%, a level last seen during the Great Depression of the 1930s. In hard-hit Italy, which has begun easing restrictions, Dr Silvio Brusaferro, president of the Superior Institute of Health, urged “a huge investment” of resources to train medical personnel to monitor possible new cases of the virus, which has killed about 30,000 people nationwide. Lothar Wieler, head of Germany’s national disease control centre, said scientists “know with great certainty that there will be a second wave” of infections.