Autumn and winter could be better environment for Covid-19, expert warns

Commuters wearing face masks (PA Wire)
20:55pm, Mon 18 May 2020
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The UK must be prepared for a second wave of Covid-19 in autumn and winter as it is not yet known if the virus has the same “seasonality” as the flu, England’s deputy chief medical officer warned.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told a Downing Street briefing on Monday that the country had to prepare in case the number of cases fell throughout the summer months and returned in the winter.

Only once there was a vaccine that is “really capable of suppressing disease levels” will the country be “out of this”, he said.

“So, from that perspective, we may have to live, and learn to live, with this virus in the long-term, certainly for many months to come if not several years,” he said.

Prof Van-Tam told the briefing more information was needed on the seasonality of Covid-19 as it is a new virus which we “don’t fully understand”.

“One of the things that’s very clear with flu viruses is that they come in our cold winters and the levels of transmission and circulation decline over the summer months,” he said.

“The data we have on other coronaviruses we have looked at very carefully and it’s not clear that these coronaviruses are as seasonal as influenza.

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

“But there may be an element of seasonality and it may well be that the autumn and winter conditions provide a better environment for the virus to then do its work again.”

In response to the question on the Government preparing for a “second wave”, he added that planning is required to be ready for any further healthcare surges that may occur.

Last month, chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said seasonality was one of the unknowns about the virus.

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