COVID-19 may evolve into seasonal disease if it persists longer: UN

New Delhi, Mar 18 : Examination of potential meteorological and air quality influences on the spread of Covid-19 has suggested that Coronavirus may become a seasonal disease if it persists for many years, the United Nations said on Thursday.

A 16-member team set up by the UN World Meteorological Organization pointed out that respiratory viral infections are often seasonal, “in particular the autumn-winter peak for influenza and cold-causing coronaviruses in temperate climates.”

“This has fuelled expectations that, if it persists for many years, Covid-19 will prove to be a strongly seasonal disease,” it said in a statement, adding that modelling studies anticipate that transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 disease, “may become seasonal overtime”.

Cautioning the governments against relaxing the pandemic related guidelines, the team noted that the spread of the illness is so far dependent on government interventions, which includes necessitating face masks, social distancing, and travel restrictions, rather than the weather.

The task team, therefore, insisted that weather and climate conditions alone should for now not be the trigger for loosening anti-Covid restrictions.

“At this stage, the evidence does not support the use of meteorological and air quality factors as a basis for governments to relax their interventions aimed at reducing transmission,” said task team co-chair Ben Zaitchik of the earth and planetary sciences department at The John Hopkins University in the United States.

He pointed out that during the first year of the pandemic, infections in some places rose in warm seasons, “and there is no evidence that this couldn’t happen again in the coming year”.

The experts, who focused only on outdoor meteorology and air quality conditions in the report, said laboratory studies had provided some evidence the virus survives longer in cold, dry weather and when there is low ultraviolet radiation.

But it remained unclear whether meteorological influences “have a meaningful influence on transmission rates under real-world conditions”.

They also highlighted that evidence around the impact of air quality on the virus remained “inconclusive”.

There was some preliminary evidence that poor air quality increases Covid-19 mortality rates, “but not that pollution directly impacts the airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2”.



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