Coronavirus: Warmer weather won't stop the spread of Covid-19, claims virologist

Public health advice during the Coronavirus outbreak in London, UK on March 12, 2020. The UK has entered the delay phase of the governments four point plan to tackle the spread of coronavirus, this is the second phase, which means anyone with a new continuous cough or a high temperature should self-isolate for seven days. (Photo by Claire Doherty/Sipa USA)
Warmer weather won't stop the spread of coronavirus, a virologist has warned. (Claire Doherty/Sipa USA)

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.

A man wearing a face mask walks past a traditional British red phone box near Parliament Square in central London, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. A British government minister Nadine Dorries, who is a junior Heath minster has tested positive for the coronavirus and is self isolating. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Confirmed cases of coronavirus soared to 596 on Thursday. (AP)

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.

Read more: Coronavirus: Number of UK cases soars to 596 in biggest daily increase

“We are at the early stages of the outbreak in the UK where these measures can be very effective.”

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a news conference to give the government's response to the new COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, at Downing Street in London, Thursday March 12, 2020. For most people, the new COVID-19 coronavirus can cause only mild or moderate symptoms, but for some it can cause more severe illness. (Simon Dawson/Pool via AP)
Boris Johnson holds a news conference to give the government's response to the coronavirus outbreak. (AP)

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 Jeremy S Rossman said there is no evidence to suggest coronavirus is affected by seasonal temperatures, as is the case with flu. (JEREMY S ROSSMAN)

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.

Read more: Coronavirus: Two staff members at Liverpool hospital test positive as UK cases soar

“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”.

Read more: Government hits back at critics who say its coronavirus response is complacent

“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.

Close-up of an elderly man's hands as he carefully washes them with soap.
Dr Rossman reiterated the importance of regular hand washing to slow down the spread of infection. (Getty Images)

“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”.

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