COVID-19 – Potential for a Winter Wave?
Pension scheme members in public facing roles based in densely populated areas could be impacted the most
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The XPS COVID-19 Tracker shows that total weekly deaths have risen marginally above those in the same week of 2019. Although it is too early to predict future trends based on this data, we can consider the seasonality of deaths to try to inform the future.
Studies suggest that COVID-19 outbreaks are linked to lower temperature climates. One such study of 50 cities found there to be substantially more community transmission of COVID-19 in the cities situated roughly between the 30°N and 50°N latitudes where temperatures were 5°C to 11°C relative to other cities where temperatures were higher. While anecdotal, recent outbreaks of COVID-19 in close working cold meat processing facilities in the USA, Germany and the UK hint that temperature and humidity may be factors. Further, influenza viruses have been shown to linger on surfaces longer in cold environments and in winter people spend more time indoors rather than relying on the natural social distancing protection provided by a summer outdoors.
In England and Wales mortality rates follow a seasonal pattern, with rates usually starting to increase in November and decline in February, with a significant proportion of these excess winter deaths being influenza related. If a combination of lockdown relaxation and seasonal flu patterns do lead to a winter wave of COVID-19, we might expect to see COVID-19 infections and deaths start to increase again in November. The chart below* shows mortality rates in England and Wales calculated by the CMI up to March 2020.