Coronavirus update: Strong natural sunlight could reduce transmission of the virus
Kate Garraway says coronavirus vaccine is 'extraordinary'
As we enter the depths of winter, more coronavirus cases mount, the death toll increases, and people are facing a very different Christmas this year… there is a glimmer of hope at the end of the very dark tunnel.
Published on Thursday, December 17, a research paper has made the cut to appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The research team based their investigation on recent laboratory reports that demonstrated that UV inactivates SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – on surfaces.
Scientists from Harvard University collected daily COVID-19 and weather data from over 3,000 administrative regions in more than 170 countries.
“Understanding the potential seasonality of COVID-19 transmission could help inform our response to the pandemic in the coming months,” said Jonathan Proctor, Postdoctoral Fellow, at Harvard University.
They found that the spread of the deadly disease (through a population) tended to be lower in the weeks following higher UV exposure.
Using this information, the collaborators stimulated how seasonal changes might influence the spread of COVID-19.
They determined that changes in UV between winter and summer led to a seven percent decrease in the COVID-19 growth rate across the Northern Hemisphere.
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“These findings suggest that the incidence of COVID-19 may have a seasonal pattern, spreading faster in the winter when it’s darker than in the summer,” added Proctor.
Co-researcher Tamma Carleton added: “We are confident of the UV effect, but this is only one piece of the full seasonality picture.”
They noted that “UV exposure alone is unlikely to stop the spread of the virus”.
Thus, they still appreciate the value of social distancing policies and other preventative measures such as wearing face masks.
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“Regardless of the weather, additional measures appear to be necessary to substantially slow the spread,” confirmed Proctor.
There are a number of theories as to why spring and summer is more hopeful for slowing the spread of the virus.
It’s proposed that UV destroys the virus, or that in sunny weather more people go outside where there is less transmission.
Another line of thought is that UV reduces susceptibility to COVID-19 by stimulating the production of vitamin D, thereby boosting the immune system.
Peter Huybers, another researcher from Harvard University, said: “There’s still so much that we don’t know about how environmental factors influence the spread of the virus.
“But a better understanding of the environmental influences on COVID-19 could allow for seasonal adjustment of containment policies and may help inform vaccination strategies.”
With warmer weather ahead, an extensive vaccination programme, and adherence to social distancing alongside preventative measures, 2021 may be a better year.
Until then, the NHS recommends everybody to take a daily vitamin D supplement until March 2021.
With five days of lifted restrictions, between December 23 to 27, the government is advising people to be sensible.
Although up to three households are legally able to mix over this festive season in England, it’s best to exercise caution.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged people to keep Christmas celebrations “short” and “small” to reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
“It’s always going to be safest to minimise the number of people you meet,” Boris Johnson said.
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