Local lockdowns are now in place in different parts of the globe as the WHO warns that the ‘peak’ of the pandemic has not yet been reached, writes Maresa Fagan
A SECOND wave of Covid-19 cases in a number of countries, including Australia and Spain, has triggered new localised lockdowns, as the World Health Organisation warned this week that the pandemic is far from over.
Six months into the Covid-19 pandemic and there is little sign of the public health emergency abating. The number of cases has exceeded 11.5m and the number of deaths has climbed past 530,000.
On Tuesday the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that the pandemic is accelerating.
“It took 12 weeks for the world to reach 400,000 cases of Covid-19. Over the weekend, there were more than 400,000 cases across the globe,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“The outbreak is accelerating and we have clearly not reached the peak of the pandemic,” he added.
While several countries in Central and South America move to contain their first wave of Covid-19 infections, other countries are grappling with the threat of a second wave after reopening their economies and emerging from lockdown measures in recent weeks.
As Ireland follows suit and emerges from lockdown, images of Dublin city centre being thronged with pubgoers over the weekend raised concern for a second Covid-19 wave in the weeks to come.
Dublin GP Dr Maitiu Ó Tuathail expressed shock after witnessing scenes similar to All Ireland final night in the capital on Saturday and predicted a second wave could be just weeks away.
On Monday, Dr Ronan Glynn, acting chief medical officer at the Department of Health, warned that repeatedly flouting social-distancing guidance would make a second wave of coronavirus “inevitable”.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin also signalled that the reopening of all pubs on July 20 could be delayed and will be kept under review until then.
For the moment Ireland will be keeping a watchful eye on countries like Australia, Spain, the UK, and China, where limited and localised lockdowns have been reimposed to stave off a second wave of Covid-19.
Other countries are seeing significant surges in the number of infections being detected but have not confirmed a second Covid-19 wave and have not reimposed lockdown restrictions.
Japan, for example, has seen a consistent rise in the daily number of cases over the past week, with 102 cases confirmed on Monday, but experts have downplayed the likelihood that it is a second wave of infection.
Last week the WHO director-general cautioned that countries adopting a fragmented approach to “flare-ups” of Covid-19 faced a “long, hard road” ahead.
“Flare-ups are to be expected as countries start to lift restrictions. But countries that have the systems in place to apply a comprehensive approach should be able to contain these flare-ups locally and avoid reintroducing widespread restrictions,” Dr Ghebreyesus said.
In Australia a lockdown has been imposed on five million people across the state of Victoria after 191 cases were detected in a 24-hour period in the city of Melbourne.
Initially the lockdown was localised to an area of Melbourne but has since been extended to the entire state for a period of six weeks in a bid to contain a new viral outbreak.
Additional restrictions came into force yesterday when the border between the state of Victoria and New South Wales will close.
Travel between the states will be restricted to permit holders and police and soldiers are patrolling the border to enforce the new restrictions. It is the first time the state border has closed since an outbreak of Spanish flu in 1919.
To date, more than 8,700 cases and 106 Covid-19 deaths have been confirmed in Australia.
In recent weeks Spain began reopening its economy and its tourism market to other EU countries and has now seen a spike in infections in the Catalonia and Galicia regions where new local lockdowns have been imposed.
The country is one of the worst affected by the virus in Europe, with more than 200,000 cases and in excess of 28,000 deaths confirmed to date.
At the height of the outbreak in Spain almost 10,000 cases were being reported every day but that figures have fallen to single-digit numbers as the country brought the outbreak under control.
Over the weekend, however, 70,000 residents in Galicia were placed on a week-long lockdown after 250 new cases of Covid-19 were detected.
Residents are banned from leaving or entering the coastal community of A Marina except for work and gatherings are limited to 10 people.
Similar measures have been imposed on more than 200,000 people in the city of Lleida in the Catalonia region over the weekend after 400 new cases were confirmed.
The new lockdown restrictions are not as strict as the original measures introduced across Spain in March.
Last week the city of Leicester in the UK became the first city to go into lockdown again after a spike in the number of Covid-19 infections.
UK health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the city of more than 300,000 people had accounted for 10% of all positive Covid-19 cases in the country over the previous week. Close to 950 cases were reported in the two weeks to June 23.
The localised lockdown has meant that non-essential shops and schools have closed and that the lifting of restrictions on pubs and restaurants being enjoyed elsewhere will not take place in the East Midlands city.
To enforce the lockdown, the UK government has introduced new rules that include £100 fines rising to £3,200 for anyone who breaks them.
The rules are to be reviewed every two weeks, with the first review due on July 18.
This week the health secretary said the seven-day Covid-19 infection rate was falling and moving in the right direction but the lockdown would not be lifted until July 18 at the earliest.
Close to 300,000 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed across the UK, with the official number of deaths exceeding 44,000.
China, where the Covid-19 outbreak originated in late 2019, has since reported low levels of infection.
In recent weeks, however, a local lockdown was imposed after 18 cases were confirmed in Anxin county near Beijing.The restrictions have impacted on 400,000 people living in the region. Under the measures only essential workers were allowed to leave their homes and one member of each household was allowed to go out once a day to shop for essential items.Anyone found violating the rules faced punishment by police.
More than 84,000 cases and 4,600 fatalities due to Covid-19 have been confirmed in China to dat