In Depth

The countries facing a ‘second wave’ of coronavirus - and how we can tell

Fears rising amid string of European outbreaks and rising cases in the Americas

Nations across the globe are considering reimposing travel bans and lockdown regulations amid a surge in coronavirus outbreaks. 

The three largest US states, California, Florida and Texas, all set single-day records for Covid-related fatalities yesterday, according to a Reuters tally. And on the other side of the world, Australia had its highest ever daily rise in confirmed cases, The Guardian notes.

With global infections now totalling more than 17 million, which countries are on the front line of the so-called “second wave”?



MPs have been told that concern about the threat of a second coronavirus wave in the UK is “very high” among NHS managers. The warning came as the UK recorded 83 coronavirus deaths yesterday, ending a decline in fatalities.

The coronavirus infection rate in Oldham has overtaken Leicester after cases more than quadrupled in a week. Residents in the town “are being asked not to invite people into their homes while care homes will maintain restrictions on visiting”, The Times says.


Officials in Germany have said they are “very concerned” about a sudden spike in cases, with Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), telling reporters: “We are in the middle of a rapidly developing pandemic.”

Wieler warned that Germans had become “negligent” in recent weeks, reiterating the need for “people to wear masks and respect social distancing and hygiene rules”, the BBC reports.

In the past week the country has recorded 3,611 new infections, including a major outbreak in the southern state of Bavaria where 480 employees and managers at a farm were forced into quarantine.


France yesterday reported 1,392 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily tally in a month. The rise continues a week-long trend of increased infection figures.

The Health Minister Olivier Veran said France “was not in the throes of a second wave”, but acknowledged “warning signs”. Veran attributed the rise to ramped-up testing, The Local adds.


Ministers in Spain have rejected the UK’s decision to suddenly remove it from the quarantine-free travel list, with Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez describing the move as an “error”.

However, new daily cases in Spain hit almost 1,000 last week, in part driven by local spikes in areas such as Aragon and Catalonia. In both areas “nightclubs are now being closed and curfews applied on bars” to curb the spread, Bloomberg reports.


Poland has so far handled the coronavirus outbreak well, with fewer than 1,700 deaths so far out of a total population of 38m. However, the country’s health ministry has said that it is preparing for a resurgence following a number of high profile outbreaks, Reuters says.

On Saturday the number of new infections rose by 584, its second-highest daily tally since the beginning of the pandemic. This was followed by another 780 on Sunday and Monday combined, bringing the total figure to 43,402.

“We have big outbreaks in Silesia, mainly in three coal mines. This week we’ll test 2,000 mine workers, then the number of new infections should fall to 300 daily next week,” a health ministry spokesperson said.


President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky has said that the country is “ready for the second wave, but we hope that it will pass us by”. So far, his government has handled the pandemic fairly well, with 1,673 deaths in a population of almost 42m.

But this month, incidence rates increased to 58 people per 100,000 population, above the European Union’s metric for “safe countries” of 18 per 100,000.


On the brink of being removed from the UK’s safe travel list, according to the Daily Express, the infection rate in Belgium this week hit 31.7 per 100,000 people. 

The Belgian foreign ministry has said that it is currently “not aware of any plans or measures” from the British government, but Marc Van Ranst, Belgium’s government virologist, said the country would take the same actions if other countries had similar infection rates, the paper adds.

Sophie Wilmes, the Belgian prime minister, said that as of yesterday a family or those living together can meet only the same five people from outside their household over the next four weeks. 


Luxembourg’s infection rate is currently 214.9 cases per 100,000, four times higher than Spain’s rate. Bordered by Belgium to the north and west, the number of weekly cases has shot up from 286 to 716, The Telegraph says. 


A popular tourist destination for Britons heading abroad, Croatia has seen cases rise by around 42 per day and now has an incidence rate of 26.88 per 100,000 people. British ministers are ““keeping a close eye” on Croatia “but restrictions are not expected imminently”, The Times reports.



Debatably, the US is not seeing a second wave of the virus, because “the first wave never stopped”, writes Alex Lee in Wired. The US is reporting a seven-day average of more than 65,000 cases, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Americans are barred from entering the European Union.


Like the US, Brazil is yet to control the original outbreak of coronavirus and yesterday set a national daily record with 69,074 new confirmed cases and 1,595 related deaths. The country has so far suffered more than 90,000 fatalities at the hands of the virus, with over 2.5m confirmed cases in a population of 205m.


South Africa

Another country that is yet to suppress its first peak, according to the New Scientist, South Africa recorded almost 60% more natural deaths than expected in recent weeks, prompting questions over whether the country has a much higher coronavirus-related death toll than officially reported.

South Africa is now the worst-affected country in Africa and in the top five in the world for confirmed cases, with around 400,000 infections reported to date, including 5,940 deaths, The Guardian says.


Hong Kong

Hong Kongers are currently facing down the imposition of China’s new draconian security law. But the city's leader Carrie Lam has now warned that it is also “on the verge of a large-scale community outbreak”, urging people to stay indoors.

Hong Kong - which less than a month ago was reporting less than 10 cases per day - is now regularly reporting more than 100 new daily cases, the BBC says. 

Lam has warned that a second spike “may lead to a collapse of our hospital system and cost lives, especially of the elderly”.


Reported new cases in Japan are below 1,000 per day for the entire nation compared with over 70,000 in the United States. “But the recent rise in number from a seven-day moving average low of 36 cases on May 27 is alarming,” the Asia Times says.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said that he does not see a need to return to a national state of emergency, the paper adds, while Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike says she is not sure if Tokyo is experiencing a “second wave.”


China recorded 61 new coronavirus cases earlier this week, the highest daily figure since April. The fresh outbreak was “propelled by clusters in three separate regions that have sparked fears of a fresh wave”, The Telegraph says.

And “Beijing is targeting medical staff and Covid-19 victims” who are attempting to blow the whistle, according to Tracy Wen Liu on Foreign Policy. “China’s second wave of coronavirus censorship is here,” she writes, after a string of social media profiles reporting from the ground disappeared.


After successfully suppressing the first wave of the virus, Vietnam this week reported its first local infections after some three months of having no cases. Vietnam has locked down the popular tourist city of Da Nang and is currently evacuating about 80,000 people, the South China Morning Post reports.

“The government has been on high alert after recently recording its first local cases in three months, all in or around Da Nang, which has a population of about 1.1 million people,” the paper adds.

North Korea

North Korea is currently disinfecting the capital Pyongyang after a suspected coronavirus outbeak, Sky News reports. Reporting what it claims is the “country's first suspected case of coronavirus”, state media said a person who defected to South Korea three years ago last week returned with Covid-19 symptoms.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has hailed his country's “shining success” in dealing with Covid-19, according to state news agency KCNA.

“Has coronavirus spread through North Korea? No-one really knows”, writes BBC Seoul correspondent Laura Bickert. “The country has been closed off since 30 January. Very few people have made it in or out.”



Australia has this week reported a record rise in coronavirus infections and deaths, with the state of Victoria announcing more than 700 new cases and 13 deaths. The state is currently battling “significant outbreaks in the aged care sector and among healthcare workers”, The Guardian reports.

Melbourne was put back into lockdown more than two weeks ago, however, “almost three-quarters of the state’s 8,696 infections have occurred since the restrictions were reinforced”, according to Bloomberg analysis.


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