The prospect of a second wave of coronavirus infection across Europe is no longer a distant theory, according to the director of the EU agency responsible for advising governments – including the UK – on disease control.
“The question is when and how big, that is the question in my view,” said Dr Andrea Ammon, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Ammon, a former adviser to the German government, speaks frankly in her first interview with a UK newspaper since the crisis began.
People think it is over. Which it isn’t, which it definitely isn’t.
Ammon added that “looking at the characteristics of the virus, looking at what now emerges from the different countries in terms of population immunity – which isn’t all that exciting, between 2% and 14%, that leaves still 85% to 90% of the population susceptible – the virus is around us, circulating much more than January and February … I don’t want to draw a doomsday picture but I think we have to be realistic. That it’s not the time now to completely relax. “European governments have started easing their lockdown restrictions, some to the extent that bars and restaurants will soon reopen, others rather more tentatively.
She insisted a disastrous second wave is not inevitable if people stick to the rules and keep their distance.
But she detects an ominous weakening of the public’s resolve.
“I think now it’s beginning to strain. What we see is that, on the one hand, the economic part for small and medium-sized businesses but also the experience of people not being able to exercise all the freedoms that we normally have: to go where we like, to be with whom we want to be. And this is a quite fundamental change to our normal way of life.
“And especially now when it is clear [infections] are going down, people think it is over. Which it isn’t, which it definitely isn’t.”