The summer of hope for India : Will it be able to kill the coronavirus ?

Anil Dhir

This is not medical advice. It is based on various reports and academic papers published in recent days. It is hoped that some light will be shed on temperature and the spread of COVID-19 virus.

There are now some early hints that COVID-19 may vary with the seasons. An unpublished analysis comparing the weather in 500 locations around the world where there have been COVID-19 cases seems to suggest a link between the spread of the virus and temperature, wind speed and relative humidity.

The study has also shown higher temperatures are linked to lower incidence of COVID-19, but also says that temperature alone cannot account for the global variation in incidence. On the other hand, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has dismissed any impact on spread of coronavirus due to temperature. This article is a deliberation of the study done by scientists.

1. Process of destruction of the coronavirus due to higher temperature

The coronavirus belongs to the family of so-called ‘enveloped Viruses’, which have an oily coat known as a lipid bilayer. These viruses are studded with proteins that stick out like spikes of a crown which gives them the name – Corona, which is Latin for the ‘crown’. Recent research on other enveloped viruses had found that this oily coat makes the viruses more susceptible to heat than those that do not have one. In colder conditions, the oily coat hardens into a rubber-like state to protect the virus and give it a longer life outside the body, in warmer zones it just melts down, exposing and destroying the virus.

2. COVID-19 virus has slower spread in warm and humid weather

Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA have accessed data on the number of COVID-19 infections from different parts of the world and compared it with parameters of temperature and humidity. Their findings suggest that warm and humid weather is linked to the slower spread of the virus. Accordingly, Asian countries experiencing monsoon may see lesser transmission of the virus. Ninety per cent of the coronavirus till 28th March has occurred in regions with temperature between 3 and 17 degrees Celsius.

3. State of infections in Iran and Eastern Europe

Iran, which has accounted for about 90% of the coronavirus cases in the Middle East, is unique as it sits on a plateau where winter conditions resemble those of more northerly countries. At the same time, many South-East Asian countries with close business and tourism links to China have seen surprisingly few cases, even if we assume that their less developed public health systems are not properly detecting them. Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines have each seen fewer cases than Estonia, Slovenia or Iceland, despite a combined population more than 100 times as large.

4. Exact relationship of temperature with the coronavirus

In regards to temperature, the coronavirus can remain intact at 4-100 Celsius for a longer period, with the optimal temperature for the spread being 8.720 Celsius. At around 23-260 Celsius, the virus is no longer efficiently transmitted, but at 300 Celsius, it gets inactivated. In India and other countries with warm summers, the virus could be challenged at temperatures of 350 Celsius and more.

5. ‘Temperature’ is not the only important factor for the spread of the virus

Temperature cannot be discounted as being a very important factor in how countermeasures should be drawn for the future containment of the virus. Countries with lower temperatures and lesser humi-dity create a better environment for the spread of the virus, whereas countries with warmer weather may have a better chance of containment because of this factor.

6. Reasons behind the spread of coronavirus being comparatively lower in South-East Asia

6A. Conclusions of the Hong Kong University : Two scientists, Dr. Malik Peiris and Dr. Seto Wing Hong from the Hong Kong University have proved that low temperatures and low relative humidity had allowed the SARS virus, which was a coronavirus too, to survive much longer than they did in high temperatures and humidity. The HKU team argued that this was the reason why warm and humid South-East Asian countries did not have SARS outbreaks, unlike Hong Kong and Singapore where there was intensive use of air-conditioning.

6B. Studied research in Wuhan, China and its limitations : Another intriguing study of scientists in China too suggests the relationship between how deadly COVID-19 can be and the weather conditions. They analysed 2,300 deaths in Wuhan and compared them to the humidity, temperature and pollution levels on the day it occurred. Although it has yet to be published in an academic journal, their research suggests mortality rates were lower on days when the humidity levels and temperatures were higher. Their analysis also suggests that on days where the maximum and minimum temperature ranges were greater, there were higher levels of mortality. But this work is largely also based on computer modelling, so the exact nature of this relationship, and whether it will be seen in other parts of the world, is still to be explored.

7. Important conclusions drawn by a professor from Philadelphia, USA

Dr. Alan Evangelista, a microbiology and virology professor at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia found results similar to the other studies. His research showed that as humidity increases, the viral droplet size becomes larger and settles out of the air rapidly. In contrast, in low humidity, there is rapid evaporation of respiratory droplets and they remain airborne for prolonged periods, increasing the time and distance over which transmission can occur.

8. Deductions of physicists from the University of Utah, USA

University of Utah physicists Saveez Saffarian and Michael Vershinin are conducting studies on how the virus’ protective outer shell responds to changes in heat and humidity. According to the duo, “Viruses are not able to do anything on their own, as they are simply shells with genetic instructions tucked inside; when a virus invades a host’s cells, it uses that cell’s machinery to replicate itself, over and over again. What we know is that the droplets are better at staying afloat when the air is cold and dry, when the air is humid and warm, they fall to the ground more quickly, making transmission harder”.

9. The role of weather in the spread of the Virus is important : Dr. Mohammad Sajadi, University of Maryland

Dr. Mohammad Sajadi, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland too thinks weather might play a role. He and colleagues found a striking temperature similarity among regions with sustained outbreaks of COVID-19 – They all have outdoor temperatures between 5 and 11 degrees Celsius.

10. Conclusions of the scientists in other Universities

Elizabeth McGraw, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Pennsylvania State University, explained to Time Magazine, “The droplets that carry Viruses do not stay suspended in the humid air as long, and the warmer temperatures lead to more rapid Virus degradation”. Recent comments attributed to Professor John Nicholls from the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Pathology suggests that weather conditions will be a key factor in the demise of the coronavirus. Sunlight will cut the virus’ ability to grow in half, so the half-life will be two-and-a-half minutes and in the dark, it is about 13–20 minutes. Sunlight is really good at killing viruses’, he said. “That’s why I believe that Australia and the southern hemisphere will not see any great infection rates because they have lots of sunlight and they are in the middle of summer”, he added.

The ‘Global Virus Network’ has predicted that weather modelling can explain the spread of COVID-19. Their observation is that the spread of COVID-19 is along a narrow corridor of 30-50” Latitudes at consistently similar weather conditions of 5 to 11 degree Celsius and 47% to 79% humidity. They also suggested that a temperature rise of 12 degrees Celsius or higher, the viral transmission may be difficult.

11. Indians should leave the spread to scorching sun rays

It is a hot topic now whether the summer of our country will be able to kill the virus. We still don’t know. So what will be the fate of the virus in the scorching Indian summer is a valid speculation. Amidst the fearful theories, this offers you a ray of hope. But we have to remember that all these conjectures are without firm evidence. We have to hold tight till late April, maintain the lockdown properly, adhere to social distancing and hygiene and leave the rest to scorching sun rays.

Devout Hindu arrested for opposing the use of guest house of Shri Ganesh Temple for quarantine of coronavirus patients

Realise that Policemen who get assaulted by Tablighis are arrogant with the Hindus ! Will the Telangana Government ever try to use the worship places of other religions like this ?

Siddipet (Telangana) – The District Police have arrested M Vishnuvardhan Reddy on charges of criminal conspiracy, sedition, promoting enmity among different communities and issuing statements amounting to public mischief after he opposed the use of a guest house of a Temple for accommodating a section of the minorities who are suspected coronavirus affected persons.

He is accused of spreading rumours against the Devasthanam of Sri Varasiddhi Vinayaka Swami Temple at Kanipakam near Chittoor which administered by the Endow-ments Department. Reddy had used his social media platforms to spread news that the Department was using the Devasthanam to accommodate coronavirus affected persons. He accused the Temple authorities of hurting the sentiments of devotees.

Reacting to the posts, the Temple authorities had issued a clarification that it was not the Devasthanam, but only a guest house that was converted into a quarantine facility. Despite the clarification, the accused stepped up his campaign, forcing the Devasthanam Executive Officer to approach SP and lodge a complaint against the accused.

We have to hold tight, maintain the lockdown properly, adhere to social distancing and hygiene and leave the rest to scorching sun rays !