Corona can thrive in cool, dry climates

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A researcher at the University of Oslo believes the new Corona virus can be much more resilient in countries with low temperatures. That’s bad news for Norway, where confirmed cases of Corona infection have been rising quickly and are now among the highest per capita in Europe.

It’s been a relatively warm winter in Norway this year, not least here in the hills around Oslo where lakes were slow to freeze, but perhaps not warm enough to ward off the Corona virus that can thrive in a cool and dry climate. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

“There’s a lot we don’t know about the corona virus,” stresses Dr Gunnveig Grødeland of the immunology department at the University of Oslo’s Medical School, “but since influensa and Corona are contagious in the same manner, it’s relevant to compare it to influensa.”

Grødeland, who conducts research on vaccine development, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Thursday that no one knows yet how long Corona survives on the surface. Temperature and humidity levels can have a lot to do, however, with how easily it can survive and how contagious it can be. It can simply live longer in cool and dry weather.

“Since the influensa virus gets a thicker shell around it at lower temperatures, for example around 5C (42F), it can live longer (on anything from door handles to other surfaces), more than 24 hours,” Grødeland said. The virus doesn’t thrive as well at higher temperatures or in areas of high humidity.

“At around 30C (86F), the virus gets a gel-like consistency,” she added. “That means it can be more easily destroyed and can live only a few hours.”

That in turn means that Corona can be even more contagious in Norway than it was in Wuhan, China, where it first broke out, Grødeland said. The number of confirmed Corona cases in Norway was set at 56 Wednesday night, and expected to keep rising.

One major advantage in Norway, however, is that population density is so much lower than in China or northern Italy, from which most of Norway’s cases stem. Grødeland hopes the virus’ climate advantage in Norway can thus be offset by the greater distance among people.

Line Vold of Norway’s public health institute also stressed that the best prevention against infection is good hand hygiene and for people to keep a distance of preferably at least a meter from others. That’s why health officials have advised Norwegians to avoid crowded buses and trams and other large gatherings of people.

There’s been concern over this weekend’s annual Holmenkollen Ski Festival, and whether it should be cancelled. Grødeland said she didn’t think Norwegians need to fear large outdoor events, however: “I think we have good control in Norway over those who are infected, so the risk of being infected outdoors is low.”

Vold added that the temperatures in Norway (which hovered around the freezing point in Oslo on Thursday) don’t make the Corona risk any higher than it is in Sweden, Iceland and Finland. “We are well-coordinated with our neighbouring countries about how we’re handling this challenge,” Vold told NRK.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund