Scientists reveal key threat for coronavirus spread during winter months

Scientists have warned that spending more time indoors in buildings with less ventilation is a key risk factor for an increased spread of coronavirus in winter.

The warning comes as Professor John Edmunds, who attends meetings of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said that Britain will “probably” be hit with a second wave of the illness as temperatures drop same with other regions.

Dr Shaun Fitzgerald, visiting professor at the University of Cambridge, said: “People may spend more time indoors than outdoors.

“The interior environment is inherently more challenging for us with this disease than outdoors – there are more potential contact points and it is not as easy to dilute any virus particles or have them swept away by the wind for example.”

Fitzgerald went on to say that with windows and doors closed to keep the cold out, homes have less fresh air blowing in – meaning the virus is more likely to transmit.

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, has previously spoken of how there is a “reasonable chance” that coronavirus numbers will increase in winter.

Prof Whitty said: “It’s something that transmits more easily indoors, for example, and therefore things that are working well in summer and autumn may cease to be working well in winter.

“We need to know what combination of measures we might have to introduce or reintroduce at that stage to cover a difficult period of the year.” Professor Keith Neal, emeritus professor of the epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham, also suggested warmer weather was a factor in bringing coronavirus cases down for now.

He said: “The virus does not like heat and some aspects of humidity. How much this actually helps we do not know…

“For the UK the main risk in winter may well be that we spend more time inside where social distancing is harder. We know that outside transmission risks are very low especially if social distancing is maintained.

“This is a new pandemic virus and comparisons with other pandemics through history are difficult and could be seriously misleading.

“We need to learn as we go along and monitor any increase in cases very carefully.”

Experts have warned that the NHS may be overwhelmed if a new coronavirus peak coincides with the pressure of the winter flu season.

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