With the nation now consistently recording less than 20 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week, lifting the nationwide social distancing restrictions will be discussed a week earlier than expected, the Prime Minister announced in his latest press conference.
But as Western Australia premier Mark McGowan said on the weekend, in a sentiment echoed by medical experts and politicians across the nation, “Having our numbers stay low is incredibly important to us being able to free up some of the restrictions.”
“We just want to be sure. The history of pandemics around the world is there is a second wave.”
Chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy also confirmed on Sunday that it will be a slow path back to normality, with experts wary of the risk posed by a fresh onset of infections.
“Although we are now seriously looking at what measures could be relaxed… we are very cautious about the need to move slowly,” Professor Murphy told reporters in Canberra.
“The lessons we have learnt from overseas is that if you go too quickly and open up things too quickly, you can get a second wave.”
Listen: Life after 40 days of lockdown: checking in with Italy, England and Spain. Post continues below.
So… what exactly is a second wave?
As infectious disease experts James Wood and Nic Geard wrote for The Conversation, “When an outbreak is brought under control by social distancing and other measures, it’s possible only a small proportion of the population will have been infected and gained immunity.
“If a population has not achieved herd immunity, enough susceptible people may remain to fuel a second wave if controls are relaxed and infection is reintroduced.”
Whist the extreme social distancing measures may not be maintainable in the long-term, lifting them too quickly could be disastrous with COVID-19 still in the community.
This is why the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has 15 requirements that must be satisfied before the easing of coronavirus restrictions. It will ensure there are strict measures in place to mitigate the risk of a second wave.
If a second wave does occur, experts say it could be just as dangerous, if not worse.
For example, if we look at the 1918 Spanish flu, there were three waves of the illness during the pandemic. The first wave in the spring wasn’t that bad – it was the second wave in autumn that was the deadliest because it had mutated into a much deadlier version of its former self.
What happened in Singapore?
A second wave of coronavirus is what occurred in Singapore.
In February, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, publicly praised Singapore’s “no stone unturned” approach to minimising the spread of COVID-19.