When some European countries began to come out of lockdown and relax some social distancing measures, many were fearful that a new spike of COVID-19 cases could be imminent. Yet more than a month after Italy – the first European country to implement movement restrictions – ended its lockdown, such an uptick in cases has not been seen – yet. In fact, daily cases have continued to decline in most places.
Several theories have been put forward as to why case numbers have continued to decline. One explanation may simply be that not enough time has passed – it can take two weeks for symptoms to emerge following exposure to the virus, and another week before those symptoms might become severe enough to necessitate hospitalisation. It might therefore be too early to celebrate just yet.
However, it is also speculated that those social distancing measures that have remained in place, coupled with behavioural changes (such as hand-washing, mask-wearing and avoiding indoor gatherings), could be sufficient to prevent a rise in cases.
This raises an interesting question: if these measures alone prove to be sufficient to keep the virus under control, could some of the harsher lockdown measures that were initially introduced have been avoided? Ultimately, it is not a question that can be definitively answered: many other factors could be influencing the transmission rate, including climate (colder temperatures may favour the virus). Some have also proposed that the virus itself could be weakening through mutation, although this theory is hotly contested.
At the very least, the apparent continued decline in cases is cause for cautious optimism that the worst is behind us. However, a second wave is still a real possibility. If the virus is indeed being kept in check by current social distancing practices, the last thing people should be doing is lowering their guard – particularly when some Middle Eastern countries and even South Korea have experienced resurgences after leaving lockdown.
Coronavirus infections haven’t spiked since Europe loosened lockdowns. There are many theories about why.: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/06/05/coronavirus-infections-havent-spiked-since-europe-loosened-lockdowns-there-are-many-theories-about-why/