WHO warns of 'immediate second peak' if countries reopen too soon

WHO warns of 'immediate second peak' if countries reopen too soon
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The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that countries with declining coronavirus cases could face a second wave of the outbreak if they lift restrictions too soon. 

Countries in Europe and North America should “continue to put in place the public health and social measures, the surveillance measures, the testing measures and a comprehensive strategy to ensure that we continue on a downwards trajectory and we don’t have an immediate second peak,” Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO's emergencies leader, said during an online briefing on Monday, according to Reuters

He also said that the world is still in the middle of the first wave of the outbreak, noting that cases are still increasing in many countries in Central and South America, as well as in South Asia and Africa. 

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Public health experts have warned about a potential second wave of the coronavirus later this year, but Ryan said there’s a chance rates of the infection could increase more quickly if restrictions put in place to mitigate the spread of the virus are lifted too soon. 

“When we speak about a second wave, classically, what we often mean is there will be a first wave of the disease by itself, and then it recurs months later. And that may be a reality for many countries in a number of months’ time,” Ryan said, according to Reuters. 

“But we need also to be cognizant of the fact that the disease can jump up at any time. We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now it is going to keep going down and we are get a number of months to get ready for a second wave. We may get a second peak in this wave," he continued.

Globally, there are more than 5.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 346,632 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. appears to be the hardest hit country, reporting more than 1.6 millions confirmed cases and 98,223 deaths. 

Many countries in Europe have started lifting the strict restrictions that were put in place earlier this year. Most states in the U.S. have also begun lifting restrictions, with many allowing nonessential businesses to reopen with some additional protocols in place, including social distancing measures.