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Man sneezes without mask, January 2009. Photo: James Gathany - CDC Public Health Image library ID 11162/Public Domain

Man sneezes without mask, January 2009. Photo: James Gathany - CDC Public Health Image library ID 11162/Public Domain

The first wave of the pandemic isn’t yet over and in a growing number of places, the second wave is already here, writes Jamal Elaheebocus

The last week has seen record numbers of new coronavirus cases globally, with over 305,000 new cases reported last week Monday. This high level of new cases has come from every region across the world. The graph for global cases shows infection numbers are still increasing and that the rate of increase in cases has been growing in the last few weeks. So far, there have been over 16.3 million confirmed cases and almost 650,000 deaths worldwide.

However, these numbers are likely to get worse in the coming weeks and months, as many countries are facing large increases in the number of cases, indicating the possibility of a second wave.

Second Waves

There has been an increase in the number of countries recording increasing cases, from seven countries three weeks ago to thirty seven countries last week.

Across Europe there have been increases in cases as countries have eased lockdown restrictions. Spain, which was abruptly taken off the travel corridors exemption list by the government on Saturday, has seen a new rise in cases. The health ministry reported 8,000 new cases in Catalonia in the last two weeks and 922 new cases on Friday, saying that it is likely that the country is facing a second wave. Likewise, France has also seen a 66% increase in cases over the last three weeks, particularly among young people. The easing of restrictions have led to people flocking to the beaches and young people holding parties.

Elsewhere, Belgium also tightened lockdown restrictions on Monday after a 91% increase last week. Germany, Italy and Portugal have all seen a slight resurgence in cases, and have all reported a few thousand cases in the last two weeks.

This return in cases can at least partly be put down to the push from capitalist countries across  Western Europe to get people back to work and back spending money again. Governments are trying to salvage their economies at the risk of the health of their countries.

Outside of Europe, there have been new surges in countries which have not seen new cases for several weeks. China saw 61 new cases on Monday, the largest rise in cases since April in a country which has seen a relatively low number of cases and deaths. Hong Kong has also tightened lockdown restrictions, after recording more than 100 new cases for five days in a row and has seen over half of its total cases come in July.

Vietnam has evacuated 80,000 people from the city of Danang, reimposed social distancing and banned large gatherings after four cases were detected, the first cases for three months in the country. South Korea, which had just 300 deaths during the first wave, has reported an increasing number of new cases in the last few days.

However, many of these countries, such as South Korea, New Zealand and China, have seen smaller second surges since they have taken a more holistic approach to the virus. They have locked down sooner, had more effective testing, tracking and tracing and have eased lockdown at a point when cases have been very low.

First waves still rising

Meanwhile, the first waves of coronavirus are still rampant in many places and it is no coincidence that the places worst affected by the virus are the same places run by right wing neoliberal governments.

The US has seen five consecutive days of over a thousand deaths per day, as the reckless response to the crisis by the Trump administration continues. The death toll is now almost at 150,000. Trump has been forced to implement social distancing measures, advocate the wearing of masks and resume the daily briefings due to the severity of the virus.  Brazil, under the leadership of the far-right Bolsonaro, has continued to see an increase in cases and the death toll stands at over 87,000.

India, which has also been under the leadership of the right-wing BJP and Prime Minister Modi, now has had almost 1.5 million cases and infections have reached almost 50,000 per day in the past week. This is due to the premature lifting of the lockdown, which has allowed the virus to spread in the densely populated country. India also has one of the lowest testing rates of any country so the numbers are likely to be much higher.

Surges in New Areas

The high number of new daily cases is also due to many countries seeing new surges of coronavirus. Across Africa, many countries are seeing new cases and Michael Ryan, who leads the WHO's emergencies programme, has said: "I am very concerned right now that we are beginning to see an acceleration of [the] disease in Africa."

South Africa has been worst hit by the virus, with a surge in cases in recent weeks, taking the country past 400,000 cases. But other countries, such as Egypt and Nigeria, are seeing an increase in cases. This is particularly worrying considering the state of many healthcare services in countries in Africa. Ten countries in Africa are seeing the percentage of cases leading to deaths being at or above the global average. Furthermore, the lack of infrastructure also means that testing capacity is often very low, so the virus is likely to be more prevalent than the figures suggest.

Several countries in the Middle East are facing first or second waves of the virus. There is community transmission in countries such as Libya, Syria and Yemen, which have had their infrastructure and healthcare systems destroyed by war, and aerial bombardment by the West. Testing is therefore extremely low and the healthcare systems do not have the capacity to deal with any outbreak of the virus. In Yemen, where 10 million people are on the brink of famine, the head of the UN Refugee Agency has warned that coronavirus will “delete Yemen from maps all over the world”. This is at the same time as the British government decided to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which have been used to bomb civilians in Yemen.

Pandemics have long been on the list as one of the major threats to global society. However, most countries failed to prepare, since it was not in the interest of capital to invest in PPE or public health infrastructure to deal with a potential pandemic. The most neoliberal countries have been the ones to be hit hardest by the virus, as governments have put the economy before health and private healthcare systems have failed. Across the world, it has been the poorest who have suffered most from coronavirus, which has exposed the growing global inequality. The second wave of the virus is likely to be even more deadly than the first in many countries and it will once again expose the catastrophic failures of the capitalist and neoliberal systems globally.

Tagged under: Neoliberalism Covid19
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