Fears of coronavirus ‘second wave’ as number of new cases increases in Far East

The coronavirus pandemic is reaching a peak in Europe, with huge areas of the continent under lockdown.

There had been signs of hope that numbers of new COVID-19 infection were declining in areas such as China and South Korea, where the disease first emerged.

But now the governments of South Korea, Taiwan, and some parts of China are being forced to renew their virus containment measures.

A small but worrying increase in new cases has been reported after weeks of declines. “What many people hadn’t recognised is that it is only a temporary success, it is not a permanent success,” Ben Cowling, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong, told the Financial Times.

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The news follows reports of some people who had been given the all-clear suffering a relapse of symptoms.

China, the world’s second-biggest economy, has been reeling from the economic punches of the unprecedented viral outbreak.

The lockdown that the Chinese government put in place to contain the novel coronavirus has taken a huge toll on the country’s economy.

Retail sales in China plummeted by 20.5% during January and February compared to the same period in 2019, while industrial output was down 13.5%. Fixed asset investment has fallen by nearly 25%, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The figures for March could make even gloomier reading: "The slump in February was diluted in the data by being averaged with January, when most of the disruptions were yet to be felt," Julian Evans-Pritchard, a senior China economist for Capital Economics, told CNN.

"This is not the end of the nightmare," Iris Pang, chief Greater China economist for ING, said in a report on Monday.

Hopes for a rapid economic recovery could be dashed if the Chinese government is forced to re-implement lockdown procedures to contain this new threatened outbreak.

Meanwhile in Russia, the authorities have temporarily barred foreigners from entering the country in an effort to limit the number of coronavirus cases.

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Official figures say there have been 147 cases diagnosed in the country, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is being protected from coronavirus “around the clock.”

“Everything needed to protect the president from viruses and other illnesses is being done around the clock,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “The president’s work schedule is public and the best proof of the state of his health.”

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