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  • Last Update : 04:24 pm

Warmer weather to slow spread of coronavirus?

  • Published at 11:00 am March 12th, 2020
A man wearing a protective mask coronavirus
A man wearing a protective mask is seen on the subway on March 10, 2020 in New York City. There are now 20 confirmed coronavirus cases in the city including a 7-year-old girl in the Bronx AFP

There is no direct correlation between warmer countries and the slower spread of the virus

Reports have emerged where experts have said warmer spring and summer weather may bring some relief by slowing down the spread of the coronavirus infection.

The Boston Herald quoted Johns Hopkins University epidemiology expert Dr Stefan Baral who said he expects "a natural decrease" of the disease as US moves into warmer weather, reports Aljazeera.

Dr John Nicholls, a pathology professor at the University of Hong Kong, was quoted by AccuWeather, the US-based forecaster, as he said there are three things coronavirus does not like-- sunlight, temperature and humidity.

"Sunlight will cut the virus's ability to grow in half, so the half-life will be 2.5 minutes, and in the dark it's about 13 to 20 [minutes]. Sunlight is really good at killing viruses," Nicholls said.

Deutsche Welle also cited Thomas Pietschmann, a virologist from Germany's Centre for Experimental and Clinical Infection Research, who said the coronavirus is "not very heat-resistant, which means that the virus quickly breaks down when temperatures rise."

According to AccuWeather, spring will arrive in the US on March 19, while Climate-Data.org is predicting that temperatures in the Italian capital of Rome will climb to 16°C-17°C (60.8-62.6 °F), when the spring equinox arrives in Europe on March 20.

Nowruz, the Persian new year that typically marks the start of springtime, is expected on March 20 in Iran.

Meanwhile, in countries in or close to the southern hemisphere, daytime temperatures between 30°C (80 °F) in Jakarta, Indonesia, to 35C (95°F) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, are expected during the same period.

‘A myth’

Even as the weather warms up in the northern hemisphere, the coronavirus may still survive for days at temperatures up to 25°C (77 °F), according to a study in Germany published by the Journal of Hospital Infection.

The study showed a human coronavirus could persist for five days in 21°C (69.8°F) temperature on a Teflon, ceramic or steel surface. In comparison, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV) could last on a plastic surface for more than five days between 22°C and 25°C (71.6-77°F).

Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of the Philippines Director Dr Edsel Maurice Salvana said a direct correlation between warmer countries and the slower spread of the virus "is a myth".

"It might deactivate the virus faster if it is in on surfaces, but it won't affect people who get sick from inhaling droplets from someone's cough or sneeze," said Salvana, who is also an adjunct professor for Global Health at the University of Pittsburgh in the US.

Personal hygiene, proper protection

University of Hong Kong infectious disease expert Dr Michael Chi Wai Chan said while the viral activity "is a little bit lower in relatively warmer temperatures" such as Indonesia, the Philippines, or even India, "it won't really affect" the transmission of the virus per se, which is spreading in the air.

According to the latest reports on Wednesday, there were 26 cases confirmed in Indonesia with one death; 49 in the Philippines, also with one death; and 44 cases in India with no deaths and no local transmission so far.

Chan said no matter what the temperature is, what is more important is that individuals observe personal hygiene and proper protection "which is really affecting the outcome" of the infection.

China remains the hardest-hit overall with more than 80,000 cases of coronavirus and over 3,000 deaths, out of a global total of 117,339 cases and 4,251 deaths across 107 countries and territories, according to an AFP tally as of March 11.

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