A potential second wave of coronavirus infections could occur in autumn or winter, but it is not very likely in summer, Bojana Beović, the head of the Health Ministry advisory task force for coronavirus, has told the STA. All efforts should be directed at preventing another nation-wide lockdown if the second wave occurs, she said.
The country will most likely be spared the second wave in summer months “given the current epidemiologic status and the fact that people hang out outdoors in summer and there is no school”, the infectious diseases expert said.
However, in autumn the situation might change with the return to school and colder weather. Respiratory viruses thrive in such environments, added Beović, who also has fears about a potential simultaneous emergence of the flu and coronavirus.
“The second wave is a realistic possibility since the virus is still circulating and a large share of population is still susceptible to it. Even for that few percent of people in Slovenia who have recovered from Covid-19, one could not yet tell whether they are immune to a new infection,” she said.
Slovenia has to get ready in the meantime, conduct extensive diagnostics in the summer and test every suspected case of infection as well as trace and isolate potential cases. The second wave could be postponed and major coronavirus spikes averted if efforts are stepped up in such a way.
The country’s healthcare must prepare as well, focussing on mitigating staff shortages by training additional personnel, Beović urged.
UKC Ljubljana, Slovenia’s central hospital, will be the only institution admitting Covid-19 patients in the future if the epidemiologic situation remains favourable. In case there is an increase in the number of new cases, UKC Maribor, Golnik and Celje hospitals will step in as well, followed by others if need be.
Nursing homes should carry on with a balancing act of heeding anti-Covid-19 measures while enabling some kind of normality, she added.
Given that only a small share of citizens have antibodies according to a recent nation-wide study, “any kind of a new wave is possible, including a major one”, the expert warned, adding that the presence of antibodies might not even protect the person against another infection.
The possibility of the coincidental emergence of the second wave and a great number of flu infections is a reason for concern, Beović highlighted, saying that the quality of treatment declined if there was a great strain on healthcare.
Partly this could be prevented by ramping up flu vaccination, she said.
If or when the second wave hits, the state should make it its key priority to make sure that public life does not grind to a halt again, she pointed out, adding that people should learn how to live with the virus until there is an effective vaccine or medication.
That could involve the virus being here to stay, either in the form of additional waves of infections or seasonal respiratory diseases.
At the end of the month, the epidemic will be effectively over, but that does not mean Covid-19 is actually behind us and things can go back to how they were before, according to Beović.
The epidemic being over, the coronavirus task force, led by her, will be dissolved, she believes.
Politicians have taken experts’ opinions relatively seriously, particularly at the beginning of the epidemic when the situation was dire, she said.
The easing of lockdown restrictions saw a few negotiations with experts urging a more conservative approach. A gradual easing has been hammered out generally speaking. Beović also confirmed that she was informed about the intention to declare the epidemic over.
“With hindsight a great many things were excessive at the time. But the epidemic slowed down precisely because they were excessive.”