THE State Meteorological Agency (Aemet) is forecasting a significant rise in temperatures in much of the interior of the peninsula as of today.
From today, thermometers will rise “exceptionally”, according to the AEMET. The weather over the next few days will be more typical of May than March, with temperatures forecast to reach 34ºC in areas of the Guadalquivir.
The question is, will the heat become an ally in the fight against coronavirus?
For the moment, it’s not clear. There is no evidence of a relationship between heat and this new coronavirus.
Spanish epidemiologist Juan Gestal, an expert in preventive medicine is optimistic. In a recent interview with NIUS, he said: “With the arrival of the heat, the coronavirus is expected to disappear.” He explained that all respiratory transmission diseases, such as colds or flu, are more frequent in the cold seasons, one of the reasons being is that in the winter people gather in closed places more often, where transmission is always easier.
Luis Enjuanes, a researcher at the National Biotechnology Centre who leads the team that is researching the coronavirus vaccine in Spain, is also optimistic, saying that “the heat is positive because it inactivates the virus.”
This is an opinion shared by Spanish biologist Daniel Gomez who explains
that as temperatures rise, the stability of the virus in the environment
decreases. According to Gomez, viruses have optimal temperature ranges, typically below 20 ºC and when they rise above this temperature, the chances of survival decrease.
President of the Andalusian School of Public Health, Joan Carles March, is not so convinced and warned that “There is no proof that temperature has an explicit influence on the spread of the virus.” According to March, though there is hope that a rise in temperature will slow down the spread of the virus, in his view “there is no evidence to confirm this.”
Speculation over the benefits of a temperature rise in halting coronavirus arises when observing flu or common colds patterns, where both decrease with the arrival of spring and summer. In fact, as March points out, with the two previous outbreaks of coronaviruses, SARS and MERS, the heat caused them to go into remission, so some experts believe that this new coronavirus will follow the same pattern. However March insists that not everything in known about this new virus. Thus there is no guarantee what evolution it will take with the rise in temperatures.
What all experts agree on is that with the arrival of good weather, immune systems become stronger, thus transmission of viruses is reduced and for that alone, the high temperatures favour the fight against coronavirus.
Whether or not the virus disappears, the heat will help reduce its transmission.
Antonio Lalieza, spokesman for the Spanish Society of Internal Medicine,
said the virus can live on surfaces for a few hours, but in the heat, the virus survival time is reduced.
An opinion shared by Ian Lipkin, director of the Columbia University’s Centre for Infection and Immunity, who has also been studying the novel coronavirus. Lipkin says sunlight, which is less abundant in winter, can help break down viruses that have been transmitted to surfaces. According to Lipkin UV light breaks down nucleic acid, in fact, UV light is so effective at killing bacteria and viruses it’s often used in hospitals to sterilise equipment.
According to the World Health Organization, “coronaviruses can persist on a surface from a few hours to several days, and the time can vary depending on conditions (type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment)”.
Regardless of opinion, there is a key point which all experts agree on,
the importance of maintaining hygiene measures.
Irrespective of the weather, the recommendations are that hands should
be washed often, people should sneeze or cough into a disposable tissue
when possible. If not possible, people should sneeze into their elbow and maintain a safe distance from others to avoid possible contagion.