EUROPEAN nations need to co-ordinate their exit strategies to avoid a second wave of coronavirus, according to the University of Southampton.

Research by the university shows that countries need to work together, when lifting lockdown measures, to prevent Covid-19 cases rising again on the continent.

The work was carried out by WorldPop, population mapping experts based at the university.

WorldPop found that any resurgence of the virus would be brought forward by up to five weeks, giving experts less time to expand testing programmes and develop new treatments or vaccines, if countries end social distancing and self-isolation without co-ordinating their approach.

The lead author of the study is Dr Nick Ruktanonchai.

He said: “Our study shows the timing of any second epidemic across Europe depends on the actions of countries that are populous, well-connected and currently have strong interventions in place."

Director of WorldPop, Professor Andy Tatem, added: “Inter-governmental organisations have stressed the importance of international solidarity to share resources and expertise to combat Covid-19.

"Our results underline this and suggest that co-ordination between countries removing lockdown measures is vital."

The researchers used anonymised Vodafone mobile phone data and a Google mobility dataset to provide information on trends of population movement.

They combined this with publicly available Covid-19 infection data.

The team ran multiple exit strategy scenarios, each estimating the effect of relaxing different lockdown measures in different country combinations, to examine how this affected virus spread in Europe over a six-month period.

The researchers concluded that if countries work together they it could greatly improve the likelihood of ending community transmission of Covid-19 throughout the continent.

In particular, they showed that synchronizing intermittent lockdowns across countries would lead to half as many lockdown periods being necessary.

The study also showed that certain countries have a higher potential to cause a resurgence of Covid-19 than others.

France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the UK were all identified as being a greater risk to triggering any new wave of infection.

The researchers also found that the most effective interventions could vary from country.

For instance, airport closures might be more useful for France while limits on local travel may be more effective for Germany.