Covid-19 Winter Wave: People with conditions will be at greater risk | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 23, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:28 AM, September 23, 2020

Covid-19 Winter Wave: People with conditions will be at greater risk

Experts warn

Chilly or not, the coming winter is set to be an ominous one.

The spike of pneumonia and asthmatic cases, triggered by the cold and poor air quality, is a typical winter woe.

But this winter, the novel coronavirus will be an additional and potentially deadlier peril, with some countries fearing it will add to the Covid-19 death toll by thousands.

As Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has warned, this winter is likely to herald a second wave of the pandemic in Bangladesh and third or fourth waves in many other places of the world.

Influenza viruses, like the coronavirus, are typically found to be more potent in colder climates. The virus finds it easier to spread in cooler weather conditions, experts have said.

In Bangladesh, it is more likely to find a hospitable environment and claim more victims as moisture and humidity will plummet, people will remain indoors with little outside ventilation and the cold will make them prone to other infections as well.

"During winter, people who have COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) problems and allergies, will be in great danger as coronavirus is highly risky for them," epidemiologist and IEDCR adviser Mushtuq Hussain told The Daily Star yesterday.

He also said that the Chinese city of Wuhan -- the epicentre of Covid-19 -- saw the virus spread during winter and Chinese experts are fearing a second wave.

South China Morning Post reported that a second wave in China during winter was "inevitable" and until a vaccine was available, there could be further outbreaks.

The number of acute respiratory infections increases during this season and that is what the novel coronavirus targets primarily.

According to the Directorate General of Health Services, a total of 1,11,737 patients suffered from acute respiratory infections from November to March 15 this year and 22 died. Many are saying the situation could worsen this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Muzaherul Haque, former WHO consultant for the South East Asia region, said while there is no scientific evidence that the coronavirus situation will deteriorate during winter, there is still a danger.

"Poor people will become vulnerable due to a lack of protection. If people who have respiratory diseases and lung diseases get infected with coronavirus, the risk of death will be huge and the number of deaths could be on the rise," he said.

BBC ran a report at the end of last month that said, "A leaked government report suggests a 'reasonable worst case scenario' of 85,000 deaths across the UK this winter due to Covid-19."

Prof Dr Mohammad Shahidullah, chairman of the national technical advisory committee on coronavirus, said some viruses spread more during winter, like the flu in the USA and Europe.

"During winter, humidity falls and dust is added, making for less dense air which aids in the virus travelling farther and so spreading more. The greater the coughing and sneezing, the greater the spread. And as respiratory infections increase during winter, coronavirus may take a huge toll on us," he added.

Bangladesh has already witnessed 3.5 lakh coronavirus cases since March 8 and more than 5,000 deaths since March 18.

The country's Covid-19 test positivity rate was now over 19 per cent but the rate has dropped to 12 per cent in recent days.

The death rate now ranges between 1.8 per cent and just above 2 per cent, which was a little above 1 per cent a few weeks ago.

Bangladesh reopened offices and businesses, except educational institutions, on May 31 after a complete shutdown of over two months.

"We have risks. From the experiences of various countries, we saw that the coronavirus [pandemic] took a deadly turn during winter. Although it is not definite, but there is a risk," Dr ABM Abdullah, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's personal physician, said.

Also a noted medicine specialist, he said not only Bangladesh, but almost all countries are fearing the worst case scenario in winter.

"Our air gets polluted during winter and various [kinds of] flu spreads during this time. In winter, we see the rise of fever and coughing, so it may be difficult to distinguish between Covid-19 and normal flu," he said.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University are coming out with new research that suggests rising temperatures do moderate the spread of the virus -- and a big new wave of cases could be coming with the cooler fall air.

Another paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the virus "acted in a way consistent with the behaviour of a seasonal respiratory virus spreading along with temperature and humidity levels". 

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