Winter could bring a worse second wave of coronavirus - but does the time of year really make a difference?

Some are wondering whether summer will slow the spread of coronavirus (Photo: Shutterstock)Some are wondering whether summer will slow the spread of coronavirus (Photo: Shutterstock)
Some are wondering whether summer will slow the spread of coronavirus (Photo: Shutterstock)

With summer now fully upon us, many are wondering whether coronavirus is affected by the season of sunshine and warm temperatures.

Is coronavirus affected by the summer season?

As with all science surrounding the novel Covid-19 virus, much is still uncertain about the way in which warmer temperatures and sunlight affect the potency and transmission of the disease.

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While influenza is known to be more transmissible during winter because of colder, dryer air, scientists aren't quite sure whether coronavirus will be affected in a similar way.

Early research does suggest, however, that hotter, more humid weather may slow the rate of coronavirus transmission, while exposure to sunlight can inactivate the virus.

Researchers at the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center in America, for instance, exposed coronavirus - in stimulated saliva - to artificial sunlight, and found that 90 per cent of viruses became inactive within seven minutes.

This suggests that coronavirus is less able to survive in the sun than in indoor environments, making your risk of exposure much lower outdoors.

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Am I safer from coronavirus in summer?

Despite some evidence to suggest that summer weather patterns may affect coronavirus, the effects are not nearly significant enough to protect you from catching or transmitting coronavirus.

The World Health Organisation warns on its coronavirus 'mythbusting' page, "You can catch COVID-19, no matter how sunny or hot the weather is. Countries with hot weather have reported cases of COVID-19. To protect yourself, make sure you clean your hands frequently and thoroughly and avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose".

And while research may suggest that sunlight can deactivate coronavirus on surfaces fairly quickly, it's worth remembering that the main source of transmission is via an infected person's respiratory droplets, not through surface contamination.

Your risks of catching coronavirus are lower while outdoors, but you should continue to practice social distancing with people from outside your household, wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes with unclean hands.

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Will winter bring a second wave?

Scientists have warned that a second wave of coronavirus this winter is possible, and could prove more catastrophic than the first.

This is because of several different factors, the first being that coronavirus is believed to be longer-lasting in colder temperatures. However, the rate of transmission in winter will also be affected by the fact that people will be spending more time indoors, where risks are higher.

The NHS will also be under the pressures that seasonal flu always brings to the service, as well as dealing with a backlog of patients whose treatment has been delayed by the first wave of coronavirus.

The UK's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, however, did stress that much is still uncertain abut how the pandemic will play out in the UK this winter.