Local climate unlikely to drive the early COVID-19 pandemic

Written by
Morgan Kelly
Morgan Kelly, High Meadows Environmental Institute
May 18, 2020

Local variations in climate are not likely to dominate the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published in the journal Science by researchers affiliated with the Climate Change and Infectious Disease initiative in Princeton University’s High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI)

The researchers found that the vast number of people still vulnerable to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and the speed at which the pathogen spreads means that climate conditions are only likely to make a dent in the current rate of infection.

The researchers ran simulations on how the pandemic would respond to various climates across the globe. Because the novel coronavirus’ response to weather is not well known, the researchers ran three scenarios based on what is known about the effect of seasonal variations on similar viruses.

Experience with other viruses suggests that, without a vaccine or other control measures, the coronavirus will likely only become responsive to seasonal changes after the supply of unexposed hosts is reduced. 

The rapid spread of the virus in Brazil, Ecuador, Australia and other nations in the tropics and the Southern Hemisphere — where the virus began during the summer season — provides some indication that warmer conditions will indeed do little to halt the pandemic.

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