COVID-19 – Potential for a Winter Wave?

Pension scheme members in public facing roles based in densely populated areas could be impacted the most

Read Matthew Plail's latest blog

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.

The impact of this on pension scheme members will be dependent on key factors such as their age profile, whether they have certain underlying health conditions associated with COVID-19 deaths such as heart disease or respiratory conditions, whether they live in deprived areas or have public facing roles. Trustees and sponsors of pension schemes can use member profiling to look at how vulnerable their members are to the above factors and use this to model future longevity in different scenarios.

If you would like more information or to comment please contact Matthew Plail

*This graph has been prepared by and/or on behalf of Continuous Mortality Investigation Limited (CMI). The CMI does not accept any responsibility and/or liability whatsoever for the content or use of this graph. Whilst care has been taken during the development of the graph CMI does not (i) warrant its accuracy; or (ii) guarantee any outcome or result from the application of this graph or of any of CMI’s work (whether contained in or arising from the application of this graph or otherwise). You assume sole responsibility for your use of this graph and for any and all conclusions drawn from its use.
CMI hereby excludes all warranties, representations, conditions and all other terms of any kind whatsoever implied by statute or common law in relation to this graph to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law. If you are in any doubt as to using anything produced by CMI, please seek independent advice.
© Continuous Mortality Investigation Limited.