Scientists find link between lower daily temperatures and higher rate of transmission of Covid-19

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  • A new study found a correlation between the rate of Covid-19 transmission and temperature
  • Researchers established that there were fewer Covid-19 cases during the summer months
  • Researchers say the results of this study can help countries to deal with the virus in the future

New research has found that there is a correlation between the number of Covid-19 cases and temperature.

The study published in PLOS ONE investigated how the impact of seasonal temperature changes on the transmission of the virus is an important factor in reducing its spread.

The researchers recorded daily temperatures and the number of Covid-19  cases in 50 countries in the Northern Hemisphere between 22 January and 6 April 2020. 

The analysis revealed that between -1,11 and +37,78 degrees Celsius, a one-degree increase was associated with a 1% decrease in the rate of daily confirmed cases, and a one-degree decrease with a 3.7% increase in cases. 

The data were collected during the early stages of the pandemic, and the results were not significantly influenced by lockdowns, masking or other efforts to contain the virus.

Summer temperatures lead to fewer Covid-19 cases

The findings of the study show that summer months are associated with a slower transmission of Covid-19, as is the case with other seasonal respiratory viruses.

The data also indicate that the correlation between temperature and transmission was much greater than the association between temperature and recovery or death from Covid-19.

“Although Covid-19 is an infectious disease that will have non-temperature dependent transmission, our research indicates that it also may have a seasonal component.

"Of course, the effect of temperature on the rate of transmission is altered by social interventions like distancing, as well as time spent indoors and other factors.

"A combination of these factors ultimately determines the spread of Covid-19," says co-author, Dr Aruni Bhatnagar in a press release.

The researchers noted that the United States had a high number of Covid-19 cases during their summer months, but added that cooler summer temperatures may have resulted in a higher number of cases.

The researchers say that knowing the impact of seasonal temperatures can help with future planning in the fight against the virus.

"This understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 temperature sensitivity has important implications for anticipating the course of the pandemic," says co-author Dr Adam Kaplin. 

"We do not know how long the currently available vaccines will sustain their benefits, nor what the risks are of new variants developing over time if the Northern and Southern Hemispheres continue to exchange Covid-19, back and forth across the equator, due to their opposing seasons.

"But it is reasonable to conclude that this research suggests that, like other seasonal viruses, SARS-CoV-2 could prove to be extremely difficult to contain over time unless there is a concerted and collaborative global effort to work to end this pandemic," he adds.

READ| How the coronavirus mutates and what this means for the future of Covid-19

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