A new and emerging second and third wave

Photo by August de Richelieu

The early advent of Covid-19 in January 2020, was a curtain-raiser for humanity. As a second wave emerges in many parts of the country, it’s stealthy sweep will engulf the unwary, the complacent, the ignorant and the defiant. A third wave which is bound to follow will be the grand finale. The global death toll will reach 3 million by the end of 2021; global infections could reach 60 million before the plague is under control.

With the new spike in the emerging second wave, the government, just as a matter of extreme urgency, invoke new measures to enforce compliance with current preventative rules which are brazenly and defiantly ignored. Sound evidence graphically reveals a new evolving threat, namely aerosol infection in an open-air transmission mode. A new wave of infections could be contamination by tiny droplets, or aerosols present in the vicinity of dense human traffic, compared with larger droplets that are expelled when a sick person coughs or sneezes, or transmitted through contact with surfaces.

Masks can prevent infections, but aerosol infections can spread through our eyes, which suggests that a new strategy has to be urgently formulated. Tiny aerosols are released into the atmosphere when a person without symptoms exhales, talks or sings. A recent limited lockdown under level 1 should consider instructions that citizens minimize time spent in an open-air environment and that institutions should be required to install air filters and ultraviolet lights that can kill airborne viruses.

Preventing airborne transmission of the virus should be our next front for the battle against Covid-19, it is possible that the current second surge could be linked to a rapidly changing scenario involving aerosol as a deadly emerging factor. Covid-19, like many viruses, is less than 100mm in size but expiratory droplets{from people who have a cough or sneeze contain waters, salts and other organic material, along with the virus.

The water content from the droplets evaporate, the microscopic matter becomes small and light enough to stay suspended in the air over time the concentration of the virus will build-up, increasing the risk of infection, mainly if the air is stagnant like many indoor environments.

Intervention by the health experts is urgently warranted to recognize and understand the airborne transmission of Covid-19 and similar viruses, to minimize the build-up of virus-laden air in places typically containing high densities of people, as evident in our major cities. Reports exist of infected people, even though they had not shaken hands or stood close to one another. Air-conditioned units are also a critical factor in the transmission chain. Like cigarette smoke, aerosol particles spread around a person in a cloud, with the concentration being highest near the smoker and lower as one gets farther away.

Research indicates that droplets could contain seven million virus particles per millilitre, a minute of high pitched speech could generate more than 1,000 virus-containing droplets that could hang in the air for 8 to 10 minutes. Crowded areas such as supermarkets, taxis and any high dense institution, could be a risky environment and a possible breeding area. Unless and until we, as a nation, exercise strict personal control, the chances of containing the second wave, let alone defeating it, are diminished every day, as we blatantly and brazenly defy health regulations.

Covid-19 is a rapidly evolving enemy, whose venom continues to defy any medical assault. An elusive foe whose shadow now appears in an aerosol silhouette. A formidable assailant whose viral fangs are instruments of death. We cannot afford a new hard lockdown, the cost in terms of lives and livelihood will be astronomical. Our fragile economy will completely collapse under the strain of a recent lockdown; poverty will escalate beyond human control. We as a nation will pay the price for ignoring safety rules and regulations, and our folly will lead to hardships, discomforts, hunger and death on an unprecedented scale. The safety and future of our country are in our hands.

By: Farouk Araie