- The novel coronavirus outbreak won’t slow down during the summer, the European CDC warns, unless social distancing measures are kept in place to reduce transmission risks.
- The agency’s warning comes with support in the form of empirical evidence from regions of the world where warmer climates haven’t been able to reduce the number of cases.
- Regions including Australia and Singapore, and US states including Florida and California, have reported more than 10,000 cases between them, even though all of them have warmer climates.
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If you’re expecting the summer heatwave to magically kill the novel coronavirus and significantly reduce the threat, then you should abandon that train of thought for the time being. There’s no evidence that the COVID-19 outbreak will slow down just because the weather is about to change. If anything, there’s plenty of proof that people who live in warmer climates, including California, Florida, Singapore, Australia, Africa, the Middle East, are just as likely to be infected as anybody else. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warns officially that seasonality will not affect the pandemic, and strong social distancing measures still need to be implemented to reduce the rate of transmission.
“The four coronaviruses that are endemic in human populations are responsible for 10–15% of common cold infections and display a marked winter seasonality in temperate climates, with a peak between December and April, but are hardly detected in the summer months,” the ECDC wrote in a new status report about the coronavirus outbreak in Europe (via Reuters). “The seasonality of coronaviruses might be driven, in part, by environmental conditions and host susceptibility, because coronaviruses are more stable under low and midrange relative humidity (20–50%) when the defense mechanisms of the airways are suppressed.”
The report continues, “However, based on preliminary analyses of the COVID-19 outbreak in China and other countries, high reproductive numbers were observed not only in dry and cold districts but also in tropical districts with high absolute humidity, such as in Guangxi and Singapore. There is no evidence to date that SARS-CoV-2 will display a marked winter seasonality, such as other human coronaviruses in the northern hemisphere, which emphasizes the importance of implementing intervention measures such as isolation of infected individuals, workplace distancing, and school closures.”
The agency said that the existing capacity for all intensive care beds will be exceeded in all of Europe by mid-April unless steps are taken to prevent the spread and increase capacity.
The report also upgraded the risk for the elderly and those with chronic diseases in the region from “high” to “very high.” At the same time, all other categories face a “moderate” danger from the outbreaks. The overall risk for countries remains “moderate” but could be “very high” in the absence of social distancing measures, the agency said.
Healthcare workers are more exposed to the novel coronavirus than the public, especially if they lack proper protective gear and protocols to deal with the local outbreaks. The ECDC cited statistics from China that say 10% of the reported infections were among medical personnel, above the 4% rate mentioned in other studies. Italy and Spain, the two countries that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, reported infection rates of 9% and 13% respectively for healthcare workers.
Reports that preceded the ECDC’s newest update on the coronavirus pandemic proved that SARS-CoV-2 is contagious in summer settings. The best example is Tom Hanks’s case. He contracted the infection in Australia where it’s summer. At least 128 COVID-19 cases were reported in Australia at the time, precisely two weeks ago. Currently, Australia has almost 2,800 confirmed cases.
Singapore has 631 cases as of the time of this writing, while Florida and California registered nearly 2,000 and 3,200 cases, respectively.