Many UK companies are likely to be planning their own version of the US July 4 holiday next week as the relaxation of lockdown restrictions may give firms and their customers their own sense of freedom as pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and other establishments prepare to reopen their doors in line with new, more lenient, social distancing guidelines.

However, the imminent reopening of the nation’s bars and kitchens could be derailed by a second wave of infections as people begin to mingle again, with health leaders in the UK sounding the alarm on Wednesday.

In a letter published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), signatories including the presidents of the Royal Colleges of Nursing, Surgeons, Physicians and GPs warned that local flare-ups of the virus were “increasingly likely” and that a second wave was “a real risk”.

“Many elements of the infrastructure needed to contain the virus are beginning to be put in place, but substantial challenges remain. The job now is not only to deal urgently with the wide ranging impacts of the first phase of the pandemic, but to ensure that the country is adequately prepared to contain a second phase”, the letter read.

The prospect of infection jumps in certain areas is already being seen around the world. China was recently forced to impose quarantine restrictions on Beijing after a rise in cases in the city, while in the US on Tuesday 29 states and territories reported an increase in their seven-day average infection rate.

Meanwhile, Germany is also experiencing a surge in its average infection rate amid outbreak pockets across the country. South Korea is also pondering new lockdown measures as clusters of new cases emerge across the country.

Concerns that a second wave could slam the brakes on the UK’s reopening seem to have muted the optimism of the recently announced relaxation of social distancing, with publican JD Wetherspoon PLC (LON:JDW) saying it does not intend to start any new development projects this year, playing what David Madden at CMC Markets said was a “wait and see game”.

Investors also seemed uncertain about the future as ‘Spoons’ shares fell 4.3% to 1,077p in mid-afternoon trading on Wednesday.

Good news for medical firms

While the prospect of a second wave of coronavirus would be bad news for society and the wider economy, preparations for any flare-ups in infections could prove a boon for firms involved in the manufacture of medical equipment.

READ: Inspiration Healthcare’s acquisition of ventilator maker S.L.E. Limited has transformed the business, says CEO

Speaking to Proactive on Tuesday, the chief executive of Inspiration Healthcare Group PLC (LON:IHC), Neil Campbell, said the company had seen “no change” in demand from the National Health Service (NHS) for medical ventilators as medical authorities took steps to bolster their capabilities in anticipation of a second wave.

“There is still that need to prepare for if we have a second wave…so that as few lives are lost as possible”, he said.