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Coronavirus: When Will the Second Wave Hit?
By Zulfikar Abbany
First it looked like we were in for a very long haul under lockdown measures, perhaps until the end of the summer holidays. That was until about two weeks ago. Then, all of a sudden, the weather changed — atmospherically and metaphorically, and perhaps freakishly so.
Restrictions are being lifted in Germany, Spain, Greece and elsewhere.
Even the United Kingdom, which has seen some of the highest numbers of infections and deaths from COVID-19 in Europe, is thinking about "reopening the economy," as several top officials have urged in recent days.
Earlier this month, India extended its lockdown for another two weeks amid growing concerns that if nations ease restrictions too soon, the world may well see a second wave of infections.
A second wave is more or less inevitable. "This virus may just become another endemic virus in our communities," said Dr. Mike Ryan of the World Health Organization at a press conference streamed live on May 13. "This virus may never go away."
Ryan, the executive director of the WHO's Health Emergencies Program, pointed out that other viruses like HIV haven't gone away either. Instead, we've developed drugs to mitigate its affects and we've learned to live with it. Only the fewest of deadly viruses, such as smallpox, have ever been eradicated.
The rest live on in the community. Some, like tuberculosis, make a comeback, and history shows that a second wave of a pandemic can be worse than the first. This was the case with the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, which continued in waves until letting up in 1920.
So, should we be a little more patient? Should we stay in lockdown?
Germany: A controlled experiment?
When the coronavirus reproduction rate R fell from a threshold of 1 down to 0.76 at the end of April, the German government and health authorities agreed to partially reopen schools for those sitting major exams or moving from primary to secondary schools in the autumn.
The schools set about redesigning classrooms and segmenting concrete playgrounds into safe zones, to ensure they met physical distancing and hygiene guidelines.
But before schools and their pupils had a chance to return to class and test those ad hoc safety designs, the government decided to lift restrictions further. Now, even younger children were to return to school, for a day at a time.
Zoos and museums are also reopening with new physical distancing rules, ensuring that people remain apart from each other. But there's no sign of any such rules at playgrounds, which reopened on May 7, and where a physical distancing rule of 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) between kids has quickly dwindled to 1.5 centimeters. Was this a controlled experiment for good behavior? Germany is, after all, a democracy "built on trust," said Chancellor Angela Merkel last week as she announced the relaxed regulations.
The WHO, however, would prefer that the transition from lockdown be "evidence based [and] data driven," one that is "implemented incrementally" to "reduce the risk of new outbreaks."
"Ideally there would be a minimum of 2 weeks (corresponding to the incubation period of COVID-19) between each phase of the transition, to allow sufficient time to understand the risk of new outbreaks and to respond appropriately," the WHO said in its COVID-19 strategy update from April 19.
That has not exactly happened in Germany, with the second phase of the transition for schools starting a mere four days after higher grades went back to class.
The federal government has left it to the states and municipalities to track developments, saying that tighter restrictions should be reintroduced if a region detects 50 new cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people in any given week.
No international standard
But it would appear that there is no agreed standard for what constitutes a second wave of an epidemic or pandemic — either at a global or national, regional level. So, the 50 cases per 100,000 people may be nothing more than a nice round figure.
In an email to DW, WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said the "second wave" is not a fixed technical term. "The term [only] refers to renewed outbreaks after an initial reduction in cases. Hence, the same applies for a 'third' wave."
Some researchers in Germany, including Eva Grill at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and Rafael Mikolajczyk at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, are reportedly worried that 50 cases per 100,000 people is too high — too high for the health system to cope, or simply too late to stop the spread.
If or when it happens, people will panic and cities will head back into lockdown. Plans for classroom education will tank along with the economy, and everyone will go nuts indoors. Again. We'll be desperate to reemerge, and when the number of new cases drops again, restrictions will be eased once more.
It's a classic cycle. But one with which we may have to learn to live.
"If disease persists in countries at a low level without the capacity to investigate and identify clusters," said the WHO's Mike Ryan at an earlier press conference on May 11, "then there is always the risk that the disease will take off again, particularly where we have large groups of people together in major cities, in refugee camps and other places where people don't have the possibility of large-scale social or physical distancing."
Viruses always mutate and come back
The influenza pandemic of 1918 had three major waves. Starting in March 1918, its peak came during a second wave late that same year.
That second wave was a stronger mutation than the first version of the virus.
In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said the second wave was responsible for the majority of the deaths in the U.S. — the flu's likely country of origin.
A third wave came in early 1919 and lasted until mid-year when, according to the CDC, the Spanish flu "subsided." But it probably never fully went away.
Some virologists suggest that a virus weakens with subsequent mutations. It becomes less fatal for humans, not only because people develop an immunity or resilience to the virus, but also because the virus needs living hosts to reproduce and survive itself. And so, it lives on in the community.
We're already seeing what may become, officially, a second wave of the novel coronavirus. There are new cases in China, Russia and even South Korea, which has been praised for its containment of the first wave.
As the Northern Hemisphere heads into summer and with Greece and Spain banking on a tourist season despite the virus, we may see that second wave sooner than later, as predicted by a study published in British medical journal The Lancet in April.
"The question is, can we reach a point where we have strong public health measures in place, where we can [detect] clusters of cases and suppress those clusters without going back to the intense transmission patterns of before," said Ryan.
A major wave of new infections would bring a second wave of lockdowns.
"That's what we're trying to avoid," said Ryan. "So, we hope, and we have faith that Germany, Korea and other countries will be able to suppress the clusters they're having and, in some cases, maybe at a subnational level, they may have to impose some specific measures targeted at reducing particular types of transmission."
Or we'll all be rebooking our holidays yet again.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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In a troubling sign for the future of the Italian Alps, the snow and ice in a glacier is turning pink due to the growth of snow-melting algae, according to scientists studying the pink ice phenomenon, as CNN reported.
By Abdullahi Alim
The 2008 financial crisis spurred a number of youth movements including Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring. A decade later, this anger resurfaced in a new wave of global protests, from Hong Kong to Beirut to London, only this time driven by the children of the 2008 financial crisis.
1. Learn From the Past<p>Young people tend to be comfortable with change. Their instant adoption of technology is an example.<a target="_blank"> However, they may lack an understanding of the more permanent realities – requiring patience and </a>stoicism.</p><p>This wisdom is typically in the hands of individuals who either work within systems or who have accumulated far more tenure. This was effectively echoed by 13-year old activist, Naomi Wadler who <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17Aa6XLZe9A" target="_blank">said</a>, "We can educate our youth a lot better. We're not delving deeper into social justice movements from the past."</p><p>Youth movements that are informed by the success and pitfalls of prior efforts offer a more promising outcome. Take for example, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, co-founded by a 32-year old Alicia Garza.<span></span></p><p>Unlike the civil rights movement of the 1960's, BLM lacks central governance. This means that opponents can't attack its leadership as a means to discredit the whole movement. In the 1960's, this is exactly what happened to the civil rights movement, when critics went after Martin Luther King, stalling the collective efforts of the movement.</p><p>In fact, King spent his final year <a href="https://eu.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/04/04/martin-luther-king-jr-50-years-assassination-donald-trump-disapproval-column/482242002/" target="_blank">mired in public disapproval</a> with over 75% of Americans considering him "irrelevant" including 60% of African Americans.</p><p>By studying the legacy of previous efforts, BLM has managed to rally approximately <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/big-majorities-support-protests-over-floyd-killing-and-say-police-need-to-change-poll-finds/2020/06/08/6742d52c-a9b9-11ea-9063-e69bd6520940_story.html" target="_blank">75% of the American public</a>; a feat that will undeniably ensure the longevity of its cause.</p><p>For the youth climate movement, it too must reconcile the long record of activism that predates its tenure. It ought to model itself as an intergenerational movement by giving greater credence to the activists, environmental scientists and <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/juan-manuel-santos-colombia-indigenous-peoples-coronavirus-pandemic-climate-change-environment-nature/" target="_blank">indigenous elders</a> that have fought for climate justice before its inception and ultimately signal the nuance and maturity that would activate allies within systems of power.</p>
2. Become Part of Systems Change<p>From the college campus to the coworking space, you would be hard pressed to avoid the sight of a social impact competition that invites young people to resolve some of the world's most intractable problems.<br></p><p>Unsurprisingly, this often leads to problematic and incomplete solutions. Take, for example, <a href="https://ssir.org/articles/entry/tackling_heropreneurship" target="_blank">an app for African farmers</a> developed by students who have neither farmed nor been to Africa.<br></p><p>Fortunately, there is a growing shift towards empowering young people to better diagnose the systems that uphold inequality. For example, Oxford University hosts the annual <a href="http://www.oxfordglobalchallenge.com/" target="_blank">Map the System</a> competition to celebrate some of the most promising youth-led mappings and the World Economic Forum's <a href="https://www.globalshapers.org/story" target="_blank">Global Shapers Community</a> convenes more than 7,000 young people under the age of 30 to address local, regional and global challenges.</p><p>To achieve systemic change, young changemakers must first unpack systems into <a href="https://wtf.tw/ref/meadows.pdf" target="_blank">three components</a>; elements, interconnections and functions:</p><ul><li>Elements are essentially the key stakeholders in the system. This can include individuals, land or objects.</li><li>Interconnections are the laws and social norms that bind the elements together.</li><li>Functions are the end-goals.</li></ul><p>Take for example, the persistence of sexual harassment in the workplace as a systems issue. The elements in the system would include the victim, perpetrator and other intermediary bodies including line managers and human resource teams. The interconnections could include forced arbitration laws that prohibit employees from seeking public courts and a managerial culture that protects high performing perpetrators and pressures victims into silence. In which case, the ultimate functions (or rather dysfunctions) of the system discourage victims from pursuing action and enable perpetrators and enablers to enjoy the benefits of career progression without due trial.</p><p>Systemic change is about redesigning the interconnections (the cultural norms and laws). In the example above, it involves challenging the use of private arbitrary courts and uprooting a toxic work culture. Reclaiming this intuition opens a pandora's box that ultimately allows for any given system to operate more inclusively.<br></p><p>Today, young changemakers can rely on online resources like <a href="http://systems-ledleadership.com/" target="_blank">Systems-Led-Leadership</a> to analyze any given system of inequality and then direct their unique skills and knowledge towards the most effective intervention.</p>
3. Avoid Heropreneurship<p>Daniela Papi-Thornton first coined the term <a href="http://tacklingheropreneurship.com/" target="_blank">heropreneurship</a> to describe a growing trend that credits social change to the "founder" of an organization or movement exclusively.</p><p>This culture has inspired an entire generation of young change-makers who are swayed by the allure of the "heroic" founder and whose behaviors are validated through youth awards, grants and speaking circuits that glorify a role in the limelight. This pervasive culture undercuts the entire spectrum of actors that really creates social change.</p><p>Social change does not necessarily warrant the creation of a new organization or movement. Change-makers should consider the root causes that perpetuate and uphold inequalities and then map the existing players and solutions. This process might point to scaling up the work of an existing organization or helping a local candidate run for office.<br><br>For young people who wish to create social change, their efforts – while extremely important – may go unnoticed. This is an expectation that needs to be managed.<br></p>
4. Know Your Place<p>In 2016, a political action committee entitled <a href="http://canyounot.org/" target="_blank">Can You Not</a> emerged with the aim of discouraging white men from running for office in minority districts.</p><p>Despite the comical graphics, the campaign highlights an important question for young changemakers, particularly if they advocate for issues that they have not lived: in the quest for social change, can the actions of change-makers unwittingly perpetuate injustices, even as they seek to end them?<br></p><p>In the example above, could the notion of a white man effectively assuming the role of a translator between minority communities and government only reinforce their structural underrepresentation in political decision-making? Could the desire to assume office without lived experience also signal little faith in the leadership of the very communities being served?<br></p><p>A more effective approach to social change may be to encourage such actors to take stock of the unintended consequences of misrepresentation. In doing so, they may come to appreciate the importance of "stepping back" to allow others to "step forward." More concretely, this could result in building trusted relationships with the community and eventually empowering more local voices to consider public leadership.<br></p><p>For young changemakers, it is pivotal that they assess their own standing in a given system and avoid perpetuating the very inequalities they wish to tackle.</p>
Strategic Intelligence: Youth Perspectives. World Economic Forum
A More Targeted, Effective Kind of Activism<p>Social media has played its critical part in providing young people with a vehicle to advocate for social reform.</p><p>Whether it's <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/23/greta-thunberg-speech-un-2019-address" target="_blank">Greta Thunberg's speech</a> during the United Nations General Assembly in 2019 or <a href="https://variety.com/2018/politics/features/emma-gonzalez-parkland-interview-1202972485/" target="_blank">Emma Gonzalez</a> rallying crowds for more stringent gun control. younger voices are swaying public opinion and pressuring political systems to operate more inclusively.<br></p><p>The impact of these extraordinary young people is inspiring, but arguably they struggle to provide a course of action for the average young person who is motivated to pursue social change. The inconvenient truth is that social reform is difficult and even more so for a young person who wrestles with challenges related to experience and credibility.<br></p><p>To be more effective, young changemakers must forge greater bonds with late-stage activists as well as potential allies within systems of power. They must also understand the systems that uphold equality and pinpoint the intervention that would most likely inspire systemic change.<br></p><p>Finally, it is pivotal that they invest in a support system and seek to dissolve <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/this-is-how-wellbeing-drives-social-change-and-why-cultural-leaders-need-to-talk-about-it" target="_blank">personal anxieties</a> that may compromise their change-making potential.</p><p>It's time for youth activism to grow up.</p>
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