Coronavirus behavior in winter

After surviving the summer and the monsoon, there are many questions regarding behaviour of novel coronavirus in winter.

World Health Organization (WHO) cautions that there is no reason to believe that cold weather can kill the coronavirus.

Experts agree that most of the evidence for seasonal viruses indicates they are more active during the cooler months of the year. For instance, in many parts of the world, there is a winter seasonality for influenza, and in India and regions of similar climate, there is a monsoon peak and a smaller winter peak. 

Viral illnesses, especially respiratory, are supposed to thrive in colder temperatures worldwide, the obvious example being the flu virus that causes the most deaths in winters.

There are four other types of coronavirus, which cause common cold symptoms. The virus spreads more easily in winters. Influenza, rhinoviruses, which also cause the common cold, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have similar behaviors.


All viruses survive outside the body better when it is cold. The UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) says a temperature of 4C is a particular sweet spot for coronavirus. There is also less UV light, which inactivates the virus, from the sun in winter too. Furthermore, low humidity promotes evaporation of viral particles and aerosol formations, which can increase the airborne spread of disease.

It has been postulated that coronavirus infections would be more prevalent during winter in the temperate geographies of the world. 

In western countries, winters can be severe and people tend to stay indoors. Hence the reasoning goes that the virus, once introduced, can circulate among people sharing the same premises.

Since influenza is a winter illness, the southern hemisphere should have seen a spike in cases during their May-July winter, but that did not happen this year.

There have been limited lockdowns with phase-wise opening up in the last few months, which is likely to push transmission up in winter. 

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