By Laura Kemp • 16 April 2020 • 13:56
Photo of a thermometer.
AN official study links heat to a limited spread of the coronavirus in Spain, however many experts agree that even these high temperatures will not be enough to stop the pandemic.
Without any effective treatment for the new coronavirus and with no vaccine in sight until at least a year, at the earliest, one of the great hopes for ending the Covid-19 plague is that rising temperatures will dramatically reduce the ability of the virus to spread and infect.
Fernando Belda, a spokesman for the State Meteorological Agency (Aemet), is optimistic. His team has just found the “first signs of correlation” between cold weather and the spread of the disease in Spain.
“We are seeing a pattern: the lower the temperature, the greater the damage,” he explains. However, the historical background of this virus and what is happening in other countries suggests that the summer will not be enough to stop the pandemic.
Spanish researchers have analysed the average temperature of each autonomous community over 14 days along with the number of infections accumulated in that time per 100,000 inhabitants.
This pattern, as Belda explains, has been repeated throughout the duration of the study, from the beginning of the confinement until now. “You have to be very cautious, because the humidity and temperature conditions vary greatly from one geographical area to another and, of course, there are many more factors that influence the transmission and spread of the new virus,” warns epidemiologist Cristina Linares, co-author of the research investigation. “But there is a statistical correlation,” she stresses.
Just a week ago, a committee from the US National Academies of Sciences recommended the White House not to rely or trust on the heat to stop the pandemic.
Experts warned that Australia and Iran, two countries with a considerably hot summer time, are experiencing a rapid spread of the virus, despite their climate.
“Furthermore, the other coronaviruses that have also caused potentially serious human diseases, such as the SARS and MERS viruses, have not shown any seasonal behaviour,” warned the authors from Harvard University.
Epidemiologist Cristina Linares acknowledges that even though they have observed correlation in Spain this could still be a mirage. “They are preliminary results. Other factors that influence the possible seasonality of the propagation must be taken into account, in addition to the environmental conditions. Factors like, human activity, containment measures, population density, etc, have a decisive influence”, explains Linares, from the National School of Health of the Carlos III Health Institute, in Madrid.
The Spanish meteorological team is now working on a more sophisticated analysis, which includes other essential environmental variables, such as humidity, ultraviolet radiation, and air pollution, but also other factors, such as hospital admissions, ICU admissions, and mortality.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Science, the final objective is to identify “risk areas in real time at the provincial level” to be able to act in a timely and efficient manner.
An epidemiologist, Francisco Bolúmar, from the University of Alcalá de Henares, warns that the period analysed so far in Spain is very short and that the authors “do not consider the presence of confounding variables that could, at least partially, explain the results,” such as differences in industrial development or in the use of public transport in the different autonomous communities. In Bolúmar’s opinion, “the initiative is interesting, more as a variable to consider in a second outbreak than for its current utility.”
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Originally from UK, Laura is based in Axarquia and is a writer for the Euro Weekly News covering news and features.
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