COVID-19 likely to be more lethal in India as winter nears: Medical experts

With COVID-19 set to enter its ninth month in India after the country reported its first confirmed case in Kerala on January 30, there is a likelihood of increased transmission of the novel coronavirus virus during the winter months, health experts warned on Wednesday

Sep 30, 2020
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With COVID-19 set to enter its ninth month in India after the country reported its first confirmed case in Kerala on January 30, there is a likelihood of increased transmission of the novel coronavirus virus during the winter months, health experts warned on Wednesday.

The novel coronavirus that has traversed winter, spring, summer, monsoon and now creating havoc in autumn has proven to be an all-season virus that is currently spreading rapidly in India.

With a spike of 80,472 coronavirus cases and 1,179 deaths in 24 hours, India's tally on Wednesday surpassed the grim 62 lakh (6.2 million) mark with a total of 62,25,763 cases.

"Based on our knowledge of other respiratory viruses, it may be possible that the coronavirus infections might rise in the coming winter months," Dr Richa Sareen, Consultant, Pulmonology at Fortis Hospital in New Delhi, told IANS.

"Most respiratory illnesses like SARS, influenza, etc show a seasonal variation, with cases spiking in winter months. Viruses tend to survive longer in a cold and dry climate," she explained.

Furthermore, low humidity promotes evaporation of viral particles and aerosol formations, which can increase the airborne spread of disease.

According to Sareen, lack of sunshine in winters also depletes Vitamin D levels, thereby decreasing immunity, making us more susceptible to infections, including COVID-19.

"The effect of winters on Covid surge is yet to be seen, however wearing a proper mask, following hand hygiene and social distancing are the mainstay to prevent COVID-19 infection till the vaccine arrives," she stressed.

On Tuesday, the key findings of the second round of sero-survey conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) suggested that India had 87 million COVID-19 patients by the end of August.

ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargava had said that one in 15 individuals was exposed to COVID-19 by August.

Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, Senior Consultant, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi told IANS: "Generally, flu-like diseases spread more during winters. Cold weather and humidity are favourable for the spread of the disease."

However, the rise in the cases will be accelerated mainly because people are becoming less vigilant, mask use is down and mobility is up.

"Ramping up the testing for coronavirus, following social distancing rules strictly, and practicing respiratory and hand hygiene measures without any lackadaisical approach will be crucial during the winter months," Chatterjee told IANS.

According to Praveen Gupta, Director and Head, Neurology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, respiratory symptoms, which are one of the main symptoms of COVID-19, are known to worsen in winter.

"There are chances of a spike in cases again if we do not take the necessary precautions," Gupta noted.

(IANS)