Heat may curb coronavirus spread but social distancing is key: Study
Nagpur, Apr 29: The hot climate of India may help contain the spread of coronavirus but social distancing is absolutely essential, scientists at the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) said on Wednesday.
The government-run research institute recently conducted a study of correlation between environmental factors and the spread of the contagion using data from Maharashtra, Karanataka, Kerala,Srinagar and New York.
"The study found that the dependency of virus spread on the environmental factors such temperature and relative humidity indicates that hot climate of India may prove to be beneficial in containing the spread," scientist Hemant Bherwani said.
The finding was consistent with previous studies of other viruses which tend to lose efficacy in high temperature areas, he said. But the relation with relative humidity was not that straightforward, Bherwani said. It was observed that in average humidity ranges, which are generally found in ambient atmosphere, there were high chances of the spread of the virus, he said.
"Social distancing measures far outweigh the benefits of environmental factors. In cities of Kerala and in Chennai, which are high humidity areas, the virus spread is controlled because of possibility of strict social distancing measures, as against the trend being seen in Mumbai," he said.
More study was required to understand correlation of environmental factors, and a "single model or one prediction methodology may not fit to understand the impact of environmental factors for all the cases of such a geographically large and diverse country like India," Bherwani added. Dr Rakesh Kumar, director, NEERI, said the spread of the virus slows down as temperatures increase.
"But it is also true that temperature factor should be supported by social distancing, then only it will be favourable. If you don't maintain that then all the benefits that you are getting, which other countries could not get that much, we will lose that benefit," he said.
NEERI scientists who also studied the impact of social distancing found that even a slight slip in social distancing measures may lead to widespread community spread of the virus. It was found that in a weak lockdown scenario, the number of cases increased exponentially. "This indicates that social distancing is absolutely important," Bherwani said.
"The research indicates that Government of Indias enforcement of social distancing and lockdown early during the spread was absolutely essential and crucial," Bherwani said.