Flattening the curve: A Summer of Coronavirus

April 2, 2020 9:39 AM |
coronavirus in india

COVID-19 is spreading its wings rather fast in the umbrella countries. Last week has been the most penultimate. Globally the infection figures which had reached six-digit the last week have now mounted to 862,234 India has also seen the most rapid rise so far, breaching 1637 and counting with an increased number of fatalities. With the mass exodus of migrant labourers happening fear of more and more cases coming to light are not imaginative and sound real. There’s extreme volatility in the markets across the globe. The markets have dropped sharply (more than 10 %), Sensex tanked over 3500 points to touch the record low of 26321 and the financial crises have reached the worst ever since 2008/09. There have been many horror stories that have circulated in Media and people have not shown as much concern as they should thinking that Coronavirus will go away on its own. Even when I did my earlier MD’s column, you can read them here. I have written here that Coronavirus is here to stay till July.

The perception is that COVID 19 will go away in warmer temperature the way SARS in 2003 faded away on its own in summer but the fact is, that SARS was killed by intense public health interventions such as isolating cases, quarantining their contacts, social distancing, and other intensive efforts.

It is going to be a mild summer, which has been observed so far. Pan India temperatures in the month of March remained below normal due to successive Western Disturbances which triggered on and off rains over the North West, Central and East India. Although day temperatures of south Madhya Pradesh, interior Maharashtra, Telangana and Rayalaseema became above normal by the end of March.

Average temperature across India

The second half of March witnessed maximums in low thirties to higher twenties over Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, and Jharkhand.

Temperatures of South Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha were in mid to higher thirties, barring isolated pockets of South Madhya Pradesh and Marathwada where maximum touched 40-degree mark by end of the month.

Intensity and frequency of Western Disturbances will now reduce, and April will see an increase in temperatures across the country. North West, Central, and East India will witness maximums in mid-thirties to higher thirties in the initial 10 days of April. During April 20-25, temperatures of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh will touch 40 degrees.

Average temperatures across India

On the other hand, Rajasthan, Gujarat, South Madhya Pradesh, Interior Odisha, interior Maharashtra, Telangana, Rayalaseema, interior Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu will see maximums in the range of 38 to 41 degree in the first half of April. The second half will see further increase and range will be 39 to 42 degrees.

The month of May will be the hottest with average maximums of North West, and East India between 39 to 43 degrees. Central and interior peninsula will be in the range of 40 to 44 degrees.

Heatwave conditions are possible over many parts of the country in April and May. Although, North West and parts of central and East India may witness dust storm and occasional thunderstorm/thundershowers, these weather activities will be short-lived and would not have much impact on temperatures.

We can say after milder temperatures of March, April and May will be hot with occasional heatwaves. Maximums in April and May will be near normal to marginally above normal in pre-monsoon season.

Normal temperatures across India

The study of the coronavirus family showed marked winter seasonality. These viruses seemed to cause infections mainly between December and April – a similar pattern is seen as, with influenza (common flu). Viruses, as we all know, are expelled by coughing or sneezing and its cells remain stable in the air for a longer duration, its capacity to infect other people also becomes high and become epidemic based on the temperature outside. While Sars-Cov-2 has quickly spread all over the world, the major outbreaks have mainly occurred in places exposed to cool and dry weather.

Coronaviruses are a family of so-called “enveloped viruses”. This means they are coated in an oily coat, known as a lipid bilayer, studded with proteins that stick out like spikes of a crown, helping to give them their name – corona is Latin for crown. Research on other enveloped viruses suggests 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, much like fat from cooked meat will harden as it cools, to protect the virus for longer when it is outside the body. Most enveloped viruses tend to show strong seasonality as a result of this.

A study from the University of Maryland has shown that the virus has spread most in cities and regions of the world where average temperatures have been around 5-11C. Until now, Cases of COVID - 19 are comparatively less in India. Some viruses become less transmissible as temperatures and humidity rise. The viruses themselves may not live for long on surfaces in these conditions. Some respiratory diseases, like flu, has shown seasonality doesn’t mean that COVID-19 will also behave in the same way. But we can say that the spread of the virus will be contained to some extent in the summer months. Sunlight is often considered a natural disinfectant. But according to the "BBC Future" article, on sunlight's effect on COVID-19, "no one knows how long it takes to deactivate COVID-19 with sunlight, or what strength is needed." The amount of UV in sunlight varies depending on the time of day, weather, season, and where in the world you live - especially which latitude - "so this wouldn't be a reliable way to kill the virus".When temperatures rise above 35 degrees in early April and reach around 40 degrees by April end in most parts of the country. Although maximum areas of the central and interior peninsula have already touched 40 degrees.

May is considered the hottest month in India, when maximums in many parts, particularly in the core region of the country such: interior Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Parts of Haryana and Punjab central Uttar Pradesh, interior Odisha, Telangana, Rayalaseema and Interior Karnataka hit the mid-forties. We can expect some relief.

But again, this has not been scientifically proven it is just an assumption. It is still not a fact whether the spread of COVID-19 will decrease when the weather becomes warmer. Researches are going on to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19.

 This virus is new and has not seen the variability of weather. Hence, we cannot say for sure how it is going to behave this summer. We can’t say that this virus will fade away but, high temperatures will certainly help in flattening the curve. Hopefully, by that time someone should have cracked a vaccine for this or found a cure.  

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