Ns News Online Desk: Winter is coming and traditionally it is party time for colds and flu. This has raised fears that coronavirus will surge when the seasons change, possibly leading to a second wave of the disease that is even bigger than the first.
However, predicting what a Covid winter will look like is complex and uncertainty reigns – there are reasons both to be worried and to be reassured.
How bad a northern hemisphere winter will be is dependent not only on the coronavirus, but on what happens to all the other winter bugs, our own behavior and the success, or failures, of government policy.
There is also the relatively new field of science showing one viral infection can potentially block another one, with still unknown implications for coronavirus. So are we heading towards the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s vision of normality “by Christmas” or could it be a rough ride?
Will coronavirus spread more in winter?
This is a big unanswered question but the science leans towards yes. This is largely based on what we know about other viruses. There are four other types of coronavirus, which cause common cold symptoms. Each spreads more easily in winter. Influenza, rhinoviruses, which also cause the common cold, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have similar behaviors.”It may be seasonal, based on other viruses that do tend to peak in winter,” Dr Rachel Lowe, from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told the BBC.
She added: “But the driving mechanisms are poorly understood, is it the meteorological conditions or human behavior?” All viruses survive outside the body better when it is cold. The UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) says a temperature of 4C is a particular sweet spot for coronavirus. There is also less UV light, which inactivates the virus, from the sun in winter too.
We gather indoors once the weather turns and beer gardens and BBQs are less appealing. We also slam the windows shut so there is little ventilation. All of this can help coronavirus spread. As one senior government official told me, “We can get away with a lot in summer.”
A report by the Academy of Medical Sciences estimates there could be 251,000 deaths this winter in the UK, in a worst-case scenario.