Possibility of third wave in UK causes uncertainty among students


Sophia Bassi

As variants drive an increase in COVID-19 cases in other countries, the U.K. may be at risk of a third wave. Multiple other countries have already experienced a third wave of the virus and more restrictions.

By Sophia Bassi, The American School in London

Jan. 5 marked the reinstatement of a national lockdown in the U.K. – life was put on pause as various restrictions were enforced across the nation. Although said restrictions are currently being lifted, worsening COVID-19 situations in other countries suggest the U.K. may soon face a third wave. As reported by The Telegraph, Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated the third wave in Europe will likely reach the U.K.

According to the BBC, the easing of lockdown restrictions from the third national lockdown will happen in stages March 29, April 12, May 17 and June 21. International travel for leisure will be allowed no earlier than May 17.

Yifei Yan (’24) said despite how intense the current lockdown has been, cases have dramatically decreased.

“Compared to where the U.K. was in January, they have reduced it down a lot,” he said. “Although the second lockdown was pretty extreme and longer, it did help to reduce the numbers so that they can get the vaccines out without the cases skyrocketing.”

Despite the plans to reopen travel, there are many coronavirus variants in different countries that could potentially worsen the U.K.’s situation.

According to GOV.UK, there are currently variants in South Africa, Brazil and Nigeria. As reported by the BBC, COVID-19 cases are especially increasing in Europe– Poland’s new infections are 60 times higher than they were during the spring of last year, and Hungary now has more than 21 thousand coronavirus deaths.

Solenne Jackson (’21) said the U.K. will continue to face the issue of new coronavirus strains as there is no way to completely manage them.

“Even though we do have a vaccine, the strains are going to continue to be the problem that this country faces especially because it’s so international,” she said. “I think it’s just people are hopeful that the vaccines will continue to work against the majority of different strains.”

Eilis Kenney (’22) said reopening travel would allow for these new virus strains to present themselves, and she is not certain whether the vaccine is effective against them.

“It allows for strains that we haven’t had to come in, and I’m not sure if the AstraZeneca vaccine is able to keep up with those strains,” she said.

Yan said he predicts there will be a third wave with the reopening of travel, but its severity depends on the government’s actions.

“Since Boris Johnson is planning on reopening everything by June and there seems to be no sign of reversing that, I think the third wave is going to happen during summer,” he said. “It’s impossible to contain the virus while flights and transportation is going to be open.”

Kenney said she also thinks a third wave will happen in the summer with people traveling, especially since the vaccine does not offer guaranteed protection for everyone.

“I don’t think it’ll happen until a little bit after June 21, just with people travelling because the vaccine isn’t certain that it’s going to prevent everyone from getting it,” she said. “Even if the government says, ‘Don’t travel outside the U.K.,’ I think people are still going to do that.”

In addition, Kenney said since the younger age groups have not received their vaccines yet, the third wave will spread more among them.

“If a third wave does end up happening, it’s going to be a lot more scary for our age group since a lot of the older generations are going to have had their vaccine,” she said.

According to The Guardian, scientific experts are warning Johnson that loosening travel restrictions could lead to another lockdown. Currently, a lockdown has been enforced in areas of France, a shutdown has been enforced in Italy and there is a nationwide curfew in Spain, per BBC.

Jackson said if there is a need for another lockdown, it has to be strictly enforced in order to stop the spread of the virus.

“If things are to get out of hand again, hopefully this country has learned that the best thing to do is go for a strong two week lockdown rather than trying to keep everything as close to normal while the virus is still spreading,” she said.

Yan said, since the country may not obey the rules of a new lockdown, it would be better to restrict travel.

“I don’t think many people are going to follow that considering we just had a recent one,” he said. “I’d say the more realistic approach is to restrict travel and keep things within the U.K. until the cases are lower.”

This story was originally published on The Standard on April 7, 2021.