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Heat may curb Covid-19 spread in Indonesia
Published on: Saturday, March 14, 2020
By: Jakarta Post
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An Indonesian health official checks body temperature of a foreign  tourist arriving from Bali island heading to tourist area Gili Trawangan at the Bangsal port in Pemenang Lombok island.
An Indonesian health official checks body temperature of a foreign tourist arriving from Bali island heading to tourist area Gili Trawangan at the Bangsal port in Pemenang Lombok island.
JAKARTA: Could its tropical climate prevent Indonesia from descending into a major Covid-19 outbreak as seen in South Korea, Iran and Italy?

It’s possible, scientists say, but cautioned that governments should not rely on weather to fight the virus.

At least two newly published studies have suggested that the viral transmission rate of the 2019 novel coronavirus, which causes Covid-19, may be linked to temperature and seasonal fluctuations across different regions.

One such study – which has not been peer-reviewed yet – finds that higher temperatures may render the virus less potent and ultimately inactive, which may explain why countries with consistently warmer climates, such as Indonesia, have reported fewer Covid-19 cases than temperate regions where temperatures vary between 5 to 11 degrees Celsius and 47 to 79 per cent humidity.

Indonesia has reported 34 confirmed cases of Covid-19 as of Thursday, far below the numbers reported by neighbouring Malaysia (149) and Singapore (178). While the official figure given by Indonesia seems implausible, the numbers reported by Malaysia and Singapore are also far below those of South Korea (7,869), Iran (9,000) and Italy (12,462).  

Conducted by a team of scientists from the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland in the United States in conjunction with the Global Virus Network, the study suggests that, based on the number of reported cases across the globe, Covid-19 may become less potent and, therefore, result in fewer casualties in the tropics.

The study points out several attributes and patterns of Covid-19 that are similar to other coronaviruses, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which have proven to be sensitive to higher temperatures, to back up its argument that the virus may be at its most active and potent in lower temperatures, particularly during the winter.

Furthermore, the study predicts that hardest-hit countries situated within the more temperate corridor of the planet’s climate – which, at the time of writing, includes outbreak epicentre China, Iran and Italy – are likely to report fewer Covid-19 cases in the months leading up to summer.

“Although it would be even more difficult to make a long-term prediction at this stage, it is tempting to expect Covid-19 to diminish considerably in affected areas [within the temperate regions] in the coming months,” the report said.

Another study, conducted by a team from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, finds that Covid-19 may be at its most active at a particular temperature.

The analysis, which is based on the team’s study on every novel coronavirus cases confirmed around the world between Jan. 20 and Feb. 4, including in over 400 Chinese cities and regions, indicates that the number of reported cases have been congruent with average temperatures up until they peaked at 8.72 degrees. – Jakarta Post



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