The World Health Organization on Monday said that the countries where coronavirus cases were declining could still face an “immediate second peak” if the measures imposed to curb the spread of infections are lifted too soon, Reuters reported. There are more than 55.12 lakh Covid-19 cases globally, and over 3.46 lakh people have died.

In an online briefing, WHO’s Emergencies Director Michael Ryan said that the world was still in the middle of the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak. He noted that while cases are declining in many countries, they are still increasing in Central and South America, South Asia and Africa.

Several countries, including India and the United States, have begun to ease their lockdown restrictions. On Monday, Japan lifted a state of emergency in Tokyo and four other remaining areas, as businesses began to reopen. The country has a total of 16,581 cases. United States, which is the worst-affected country with more than 16.62 lakh cases and 98,223 deaths, has also gradually begun to reopen its economy. China, where the coronavirus was first reported, has also lifted lockdown measures as it began to report fewer cases in April.

The number of cases in India, though, have not reduced. On Tuesday, India recorded 6,535 new coronavirus cases. With this, the total number of cases reached more than 1.45 lakh and the toll rose to 4,167. India is now among the 10 countries with the most number of coronavirus cases.

Ryan said that epidemics often come in waves, which means that outbreaks could come back later in the year in countries where the first wave of coronavirus has subsided. He said that the infection rates can increase again “more quickly” if measures to halt the first wave were 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,” Ryan said. “And that may be a reality for many countries in a number of months’ time.”

He added that we also need 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,” Ryan said. “We may get a second peak in this wave.”

Ryan added that countries in Europe and North America should continue implementing public health, social and testing measures, as well as surveillance. Ryan added that the countries should have a comprehensive strategy to ensure that “we continue on a downwards trajectory and we don’t have an immediate second peak”.

Earlier on May 14, US Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci had highlighted the dangers of reopening the economy and schools too quickly in the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic. In April, Fauci had said that lives could have been saved in the country, if it had shut down earlier.

On May 13, the WHO had said that the novel coronavirus “may never go away” and that people will have to learn to live with it. “This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away,” Ryan had said.

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