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Wednesday 8th July 2020

Coronavirus cases could surge in winter, scientists warn

A new study looks at the effect of humidity and temperature on COVID-19

Coronavirus cases could surge in winter as the virus thrives in cooler temperatures with less humidity, scientists warn.

Experts have found a link between the daily temperature and COVID-19, according to a study by the University of Sydney and the Fudan University School of Public Health in Shanghai.

Coronavirus cases could surge in cooler weather with less humidity (Credit: Pexels.com)

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The study is the first to look at the relationship between climate and the coronavirus in the southern hemisphere.

Flu-like viruses spread more easily in winter months

Scientists have highlighted the fact that flu-like viruses spread more easily in the winter months.

"COVID-19 is likely to be a seasonal disease that recurs in periods of lower humidity," Professor Michael Ward from the University of Sydney told News GP.

"We need to be thinking if it's wintertime, it could be COVID-19 time."

Scientists have looked into the link between humidity and COVID-19 (Credit: Pexels.com)

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Professor Ward added the pandemic in China, Europe and North America happened during the winter months and said that the team wanted to find out whether or not there was a difference in Australia.

Lower humidity is the main driver

"When it comes to climate, we found that lower humidity is the main driver here, rather than colder temperatures," he explained.

"It means we may see an increased risk in winter here, when we have a drop in humidity. But in the northern hemisphere, in areas with lower humidity or during periods when humidity drops, there might be a risk even during the summer months. So vigilance must be maintained."

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The findings mean that a drop in humidity and a change in the weather could also cause problems during the summer months.

How humidity affects transmission

Explaining how humidity affects transmission of COVID-19, Prof Ward continued: "When the humidity is lower, the air is drier and it makes the aerosols smaller.

The virus spreads more easily in winter months (Credit: Pexels.com)

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"When you sneeze and cough those smaller infectious aerosols can stay suspended in the air for longer. That increases the exposure for other people.

"When the air is humid and the aerosols are larger and heavier, they fall and hit surfaces quicker."

Humidity is at its lowest in August in Sydney, with the scientists warning people to be vigilant.

They said a reduction in humidity of just one per cent could mean an increase in cases by six per cent.

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