SA’s summery weather may be keeping coronavirus at bay, experts believe

Business Insider SA
(Getty images)
(Getty images)
  • South African disease experts believe the country’s summer season may have delayed the coronavirus spreading domestically. 
  • Coronavirus, which has already killed 3,000 people, has mostly spread in the global north which is currently experiencing winter. 
  • Infectious droplets may not last long in hot weather - also in summer, people tend not to spend time in close quarters, which helps to curb the infection rate. 
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Hotter temperatures in South Africa might be the reason why coronavirus, or the Covid-19 virus, has not spread to the country, local health experts believe. 

Coronavirus, which has so far killed more than 3,000 people and infected 90,0000, has spread to more than 60 countries since it was first detected in Wuhan, China, in December.

The virus, which currently has no cure or vaccine, was declared a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in January 2020. 

The worst-affected countries are in the northern hemisphere - including China, South Korea, Italy, Japan and France - which are currently experiencing winter. Those in the hotter south have so far largely been unaffected. 

The global spread of coronavirus cases as of March
The global spread of coronavirus cases as of March 2, 2020 (Wikipedia)

Dr Sibongile Walaza of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) says a lot about the virus is still unknown, including whether it will have "winter seasonality" like influenza (the flu).

“We do know that it is spread by respiratory droplets (like influenza) and viruses in respiratory droplets do not last for long in hot weather,” Walaza told Business Insider South Africa. 

“The other contributing feature for the spread of respiratory illness in winter is that people stay inside with closed doors and windows, making it easier to spread the infection to others.” 

Professor Anton Stoltz, head of the University of Pretoria’s infectious diseases department, says that in summer people spend less time in closer contact with each other which might decline the chances of the virus spreading.

But he expects to see the first cases of coronavirus in South Africa very soon

NICD’s Walaza said that as South Africa approach autumn and winter, and the rate of viral infections increase, so too does the likely chances of coronavirus entering the country. 

Dr Kerrigan McCarthy, from the department of health’s coronavirus response team, says it is still not known how well coronavirus survives in the heat.

"It is early days because another [strain] of coronavirus, Mers [Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus], was very comfortable in the heat.” 

Also read: Not all masks are equal when it comes to stopping coronavirus. Here’s what SA experts say

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