A virology expert says it is “unlikely” that warmer weather will slow down the spread of coronavirus - and criticised comparisons to common seasonal flu.
In an article for The Conversation, Dr Jeremy S Rossman, Honorary Senior Lecturer in Virology at Kent University, said the transmission and severity of Covid-19 is “much greater than the flu”.
He pointed out that at present, it isn’t clear if Covid-19 transmission will be affected by variations in seasonal temperature.
It comes as NHS England confirmed there were 596 cases in the UK.
Speaking to Yahoo News, the virology expert said the UK “needs to be getting more proactive and expand our screening, surveillance and social distancing” as cases start to soar.
He said: “We also need to have a clear message and communication with the public and to be preparing our hospitals for the potential of increased patients requiring respiratory support.
“We are at the early stages of the outbreak in the UK where these measures can be very effective.”
His comments come after Boris Johnson said the outbreak in the UK was “was the worst health crisis in a generation” as he unveiled the Government’s “delay phase strategy”.
The UK has officially escalated its coronavirus response to the “delay” phase, with the government now telling people who suffer any symptoms to stay at home for seven days.
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Continuing on the subject of warm weather, the virologist said it was “unlikely” the weather would halt the spread of the virus.
Dr Rossman wrote that comparisons between Covid-19 and seasonal flu were wrong as isn’t clear if temperature will affect the transmission of the illness.
He said: “Whilst there is a political message that the warmer weather will slow the virus I don’t think the government response is waiting on or relying on this slow down.
“Hopefully the warmer weather will slow virus transmission, but it is unlikely that the weather will stop the transmission and thankfully it appears that most governments are acting now and not waiting on the weather to stop the virus.”
After Thursday;s Cobra meeting, the prime minister said the outbreak was the “worst public health crisis for a generation” in Number 10’s most dire coronavirus warning so far.
As panic sets in across the UK, with the number of confirmed cases expected to rise in the coming weeks, Dr Rossman said he was “cautious but remaining calm”.
“This is a very important time for scaled up governmental contain and delay strategies and a very important time for the general public to be practicing good hygiene (e.g. proper hand washing and using tissues); however, there is no cause for panic in the UK at present,” he continued.
“We still have very low case numbers and you’re still much more likely to get the flu right now then Covid-19.”
“Hopefully, the contain and delay strategies will keep the UK numbers low and prevent the large scale outbreaks like we’ve seen in Italy, Iran, South Korea and China; however, the situation is constantly changing.
“As a global infectious disease specialist I am very concerned but as a member of the public in the UK or the US, I am cautious but remaining calm”.