Effect Of Temperature On COVID-19: An Unscientific Investigation.
In the early days of the Coronavirus scourge, many Nigerians believed that we wouldn’t be affected because of our hot weather. Now that we’re testing people, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of confirmed cases, to about 210, which is still quite low for a country with 190 million residents. However many people suspect that the virus has penetrated our society far more deeply than the NCDC statistics suggest. We’ve noticed that people who travelled to colder countries recently or spend most of their time in air-conditioned spaces, or their direct contacts, are massively over-represented among the confirmed cases. Is this because they are the only ones being tested, or is heat a factor?
Here is the list of the 10 countries that have the highest number of active COVID-19 cases, and their forecasted temperatures for the day:
* USA has 257,790 active cases. The temperature forecast for New York is 8°C – 15°C.
* Italy has 85,388 active cases. The temperature forecast for Rome is 7°C – 25°C.
* Spain has 77,488 active cases. The temperature forecast for Madrid is 6°C – 19°C
* Germany has 65,309 active cases. The temperature forecast for Berlin is 1°C – 12°C
* France has 61,650 active cases. The temperature forecast for Paris is 6°C – 17°C
* UK has 34,428 active cases. The temperature forecast for London is 4°C – 16°C
* Iran has 31,954 active cases. The temperature forecast for Tehran is 8°C – 19°C
* Turkey has 20,012 active cases. The temperature forecast for Istanbul is 8°C – 11°C
* Switzerland has 14,169 active cases. The temperature forecast for Geneva is 3°C – 17°C
* Netherlands has 13,986 active cases. The temperature forecast for Amsterdam is 4°C – 14°C
On average, the top ten countries with Coronavirus have a temperature forecast of 5.5 – 16.5°C. The temperature forecast for Lagos is 26°C – 34°C, and for Abuja, it’s 24°C – 36°C. This is a massive, massive difference! The maximum temperature of nine of the countries above is lower than the minimum temperature of Lagos. The maximum temperature of 7 of those countries is lower than the minimum thermostat setting of most Nigerian air-conditioners (18°C).
The countries mentioned above are in Africa, Asia or Europe. What about Africa? Here’s our top 5:
* South Africa has 1,401 active cases. The temperature forecast for Johannesburg is 9°C – 15°C.
* Algeria has 1,004 active cases. The temperature forecast for Algiers is 9°C – 17°C.
* Egypt has 703 active cases. The temperature forecast for Cairo is 24°C – 34°C.1
* Tunisia has 472 active cases. The temperature forecast for Tunis is 8°C – 17°C.
* Burkina Faso has 236 active cases. The temperature forecast for Ouagadougou is 28°C – 43°C. 1
1 The Egypt data is misleading because the their average temperature last month was 11.6°C to 26°C, but Burkina Faso is a legitimate outlier; the country is much hotter than Nigeria.
The above data, in spite of the outlier, is enough to convince me that the Coronavirus likes cold weather and probably spreads faster in cold places, such as air-conditioned cars, offices, and homes. This, apart from the lack of testing, may explain why we are yet to see as many cases of transmission outside the circles of travellers and the rich and powerful in Nigeria as expected. It is consistent with what we know about other respiratory illnesses, and why countries like the US expect the disease to slow down in their summer season (starting from June).
When I see videos of Lagos officials spraying open areas e.g. roads & sidewalks in Lagos, I have to laugh, because I strongly suspect that, if they actually bothered to test for the presence of the virus on those surfaces, they’d find nothing at all because the sun already sterilized them.
Knowing that the virus hates our hot temperature gives me hope. If a cold country like South Korea (0°C -13°C forecast for today) could beat the virus without destroying their economy by imposing a total lockdown, a constantly hot country like Nigeria could do much better if we used the same tactics. We need to start testing people who have had close contact with confirmed cases before they show symptoms. We also need to enforce universal wearing of face-masks and social distancing everywhere, which in itself may even be sufficient to end the virus.
May your days be bright and hot. May your air-conditioners be off and your windows wide open (to get rid of aerosolized droplets). Cheers.