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Can Thailand’s Hot Weather Stop the Spread of the Covid-19 Coronavirus

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said this month that there was little evidence that temperature plays a role in the covid-19 outbreak. However it was an avenue worth exploring.

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A surge in covid-19 infections in Thailand and South-east Asia in recent days has increased doubts over a theory that warmer weather could stem the spread of the virus, health experts say.

Relatively low cases of infections in many South-east Asian countries had been cited as possible evidence. Evidence that hotter weather was suppressing the virus. Giving hope to Europe and the United States as they head into spring.

But countries from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines have recently recorded a high rate of infections in recent days. A sign seasonal factors may only play a limited role in coronavirus’ spread.

“The temperature theory doesn’t really hold up given what’s happening right now in much of South-east Asia,” said Professor Tikki Pangestu at Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

“People in Europe hope warm weather will kill the virus. I doubt this will be the reality.”

The coronavirus, which causes a respiratory disease called Covid-19, has infected almost 170,000 and over 6,500 have died.

Limited Understanding of Wuhan virus

Though a limited amount is known about the new Wuhan virus. Some of the symptoms show similarities with winter influenza. Which is also more widespread in colder temperatures. However this is partly attributed to people crowding together indoors due to cold weather.

Places where the virus has been felt most severely, such as Wuhan in central China. Also northern Italy and parts of the United States. These countries share similar climates and temperatures, Asia One reports.

The 2002-2003 epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) eased over the summer months. Although it is not clear if that was related to hot weather.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said this month that there was little evidence that temperature plays a role in the covid-19 outbreak. However it was an avenue worth exploring.

In South-east Asia, which has hot tropical climate, many countries have reported few cases. Even months after the initial outbreak at the end of last year in Wuhan China. Also in spite of the region’s close travel, business and investment ties to China.

But health experts said, rather than the hot climate, it was more down to limited testing. Under-detection due to a lack of resources and Covid-19 testing kits.

Recent spike in Covid-19 Cases

“At best, warm weather might influence the spread but it will not see the end of it,” said Professor Dale Fisher. Chair of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network coordinated by WHO.

“What is important is how effectively countries are isolating cases, removing people from communities. That’s the biggest factor, not the weather.”

The spike of cases in many South-east Asian countries has been dramatic in recent days. Leading governments to take drastic action to stem the tide.

In the Philippines, deaths more than doubled to 12 over the weekend. With confirmed cases rising to 140 – compared with three 10 days ago. Prompting the authorities to place the entire capital Manila under “community quarantine”.

Malaysia reported a further 125 coronavirus cases on Monday. Bringing its total to 553 – the highest in South-east Asia. Many were linked to a single event at a mosque.

Thailand sees spike in covid-19 cases

Thailand, also reported 33 new cases on Monday. Its biggest daily jump since the outbreak of the Wuhan virus. Thailand also plans to close schools; bars, movie theaters; cockfighting arenas; and other entertainment centres.

Indonesia also confirmed 17 more cases on Monday. Taking its toll to 134. Health department officials are concerned that there could be large under-reporting in the world’s fourth most populous country.

Indonesia, which recorded its first cases only on March 2, had carried out only 220 tests a week ago. However that has now risen to nearly 1,000.

Singapore,also implemented tighter restrictions. Above all on visitors from other South-east Asian countries after a wave of imported cases from the region.

With so much still not known about the coronavirus, health experts say countries should not rely on warmer weather to slow the rapid spread of the virus across the globe.

“It is too simplistic to suggest a tropical climate can stop coronavirus because there are many other factors, like human-to-human contact which can happen very fast,” said Dr Sugiyono Saputra, a microbiology researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. “Environmental factors may not affect the virus at all.”