Corona reality: Why the second wave will not happen

PROF. DR. CURT DIEHM

We had already made ourselves comfortable on our sofas in front of the screens. The bad news about the corona crisis was seemingly far away, as was the Syrian war and Arctic ice melt. The horror reports about Corona took place in the distance, in the USA, Brazil, or India. We were finally just spectators again.

A general serenity returned and the knowledge that we are also better than other countries when it comes to dealing with the coronavirus. We even had the most insidious pathogen under control. Optimism germinated in the economy. Perhaps the break-ins will not be so serious and we will get out of the valley quickly.

This attitude has been experiencing a noticeable crack for a few days. Leisure and travel behavior as well as individual hotspots in food production contribute to a summer mini-wave. This is by far not a second corona wave, but a clear warning sign. The corona ghost is also haunting again.

However, several factors make me optimistic that we are not heading for a real second wave – not even in autumn.

It has been possible to flatten the infection curve. The complete cancellation of large events, working from home, observing distance rules, wearing protective masks in shops and in public spaces, not singing in groups, continuing to avoid gyms, spending a lot of time outdoors – all these measures have killed thousands of people rescued. Excess mortality only occurred briefly in April.

People have learned to deal with the new reality and do so in a largely disciplined manner. The companies make a major contribution with detailed catalogs of measures during working hours. Politicians are reacting quickly to isolate hotspots. It works.

We’re smarter than before

Doctors now also know much more about how to treat COVID patients. We will no longer uselessly paralyze parts of hospitals to keep intensive care beds free. More important than ventilators are often a sufficient number of trained nurses and carers to properly position the sick. It is also helpful that the number of those who underestimate the virus is in the minority in Germany. I also only realized over time how insidious Sars-CoV-2 can be.

Countless studies on Corona make us smarter. One, for example, recently found that seniors survived the quarantines much better mentally than many feared. This may give leeway if stricter measures have to be taken again.

On the other hand, according to new findings, adolescents of pubescent age seem to suffer particularly from the corona measures. If we do not take these signals seriously and do not take them into account in pandemic prevention, the whole cohorts could bring us long-term social and psychological trauma.

In addition to hygiene, face mask, and distance, the great chance of preventing a second wave is: test, test, test. That’s another key we can use.

There are still uncertainties

Unfortunately, we still don’t understand other things – such as the dynamics of antibodies. Are we immune once we’ve had Covid-19? And even if it did, there is still no significant immunity among the population.

The number of infected people is well below ten percent in almost all countries. So herd immunization is far away, even in countries like Sweden or Holland, where the virus is dealt with more liberally. Extensive immunity cannot currently help us to prevent a second wave.

It still remains unclear what happens to a vaccine. There is currently positive news from Phase II studies, but this is far from the breakthrough. Just as a reminder, no effective vaccine against Sars 1 has been developed after 17 years. As long as there is no vaccine, we have to remain alarmed, closely monitor the situation, and listen to warnings like those from the Robert Koch Institute.

Together with many virologists and immunologists, I still don’t believe in a pronounced second wave. We will probably have to live with a permanent wave at a low to medium level for a long time to come.

For coronaviruses as a disease with cold symptoms, autumn and winter are of course a much better playground than now. Discipline and targeted local measures should be enough to avoid a wildfire.

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