COVID-19 spread may hasten during winter, suggest Indian scientists, as study shows high caseload in colder regions
Biochemists Dr Chandi Mandal and Dr Mahaveer Singh Panwar concluded that cold environment may be an additional risk factor for SARS-CoV-2 infection
The SARS-CoV-2 virus has infected more than 1.1 crore people globally and the numbers are rising. During the initial stages of the pandemic, some scientists believed that the novel coronavirus may not be able to survive during summers and would start losing its potency due to the high temperature. However, it turned out to be another baseless assumption as the virus is still spreading across the world. What it means is that the evaluation of the effects of weather and temperature on the spread of the coronavirus may not be so straightforward. Despite further research, the debate is still ongoing.
Change in weather and the spread of COVID-19 infection
Harvard University was the first one to look at the effect of temperature and humidity on the spread of the novel coronavirus. In their study, researchers looked at the spread of the virus in China, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan between 23 January and 10 February. They concluded their study saying that weather does not have any effect on the transmission of the virus.
However, another study, which was conducted in Wuhan, China, and published in February 2018, stated that the virus can spread at a more rapid rate during summers at an optimum temperature of 19˚C and with humidity at 75 percent. After that, various other studies have been conducted across the globe that either support or refute the link between weather and the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Recently, a study by the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases found that the coronavirus can stay on the skin for longer in lower temperatures, resulting in a higher risk of contracting the disease.
The World Health Organisation has previously stated that SARS-CoV-2 virus can spread anywhere, including areas with hot and humid weather.
Increased spread of coronavirus during winters
Researchers from the Banaras Hindu University and Central University of Rajasthan, India, stated in their research that there can be an increase in the spread of coronavirus during the winter season. In their study, biochemists Dr Chandi Mandal and Dr Mahaveer Singh Panwar compared the average temperatures and the number of active COVID-19 cases in different countries from late March to mid-April.
The results of the study showed that in higher latitudes where the climate is cold almost all the time, the number of coronavirus cases was comparatively higher as compared to the places with warmer and low-latitude climates. With this study, the researchers concluded that cold environment may be an additional risk factor for SARS-CoV-2 infection.
It is seen that flu-like diseases spread more during winters due to two reasons. First of all, during winters there is less sunlight and the weather is mostly dry. This increases the stability of the virus as there are low levels of ultraviolet light in the environment. Secondly, due to the lack of sunlight, our body would present with mild vitamin D deficiency, which would make us prone to getting infected with the virus.
The Indian researchers believe that summer season could be a better time to fight the virus as there is a risk of a further increase in the spread of the disease during the winter season.
For more information, read our article on COVID-19 Myths and the Truth About Them.
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