COVID-19 could get worse in winter, hospitals need to brace: DAK

Srinagar: With the novel coronavirus raging in Kashmir Valley and showing no signs of slowing down, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Saturday warned that deadly COVID-19 could get worse in winter.

“We could have further surge in Covid-19 cases this winter,” said DAK President and influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan in a statement issued to the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO).

Quoting a study from University of Sydney, he said cold and drier conditions of winter could cause a higher risk of COVID-19 infection. “The increased risk is mainly because of low humidity during wintertime. The study found for every 1 percent drop in humidity, the number of COVID-19 cases could increase by 6 percent,” he said.

Dr Nisar said low humidity is the main driver of virus transmission. “When an infected person coughs or sneezes or even talks, he/she produces infectious droplets that can hang around for longer in drier air with low humidity. And that increases the exposure for other people,” he added.

He said respiratory viruses including COVID-19 tend to thrive in cooler weather conditions. “They survive outside better when it is cold. Low temperatures could slow down the normal mucus clearing of infective viruses in our nasal passages,” he added.

“Winter is also the time when people tend to spend more time indoors when ventilation is less and social distancing not so easily achieved.”

Dr Nisar said there is a possibility of a strong wave of COVID-19 infection in Kashmir valley this winter and it could coincide with annual flu season, and this double whammy could cause the health system to grind to a halt.

“We must prepare now for this new challenge. It is vitally important to scale up the testing and strengthen the track and trace system. Hospitals should be prepared for COVID surge and they should increase the number of beds, ICU’s and ventilators. There is an urgent need to set up more COVID care centers to cope up with the possible spike in cases,” he said.

“Getting this year’s flu shot is critical as it will keep more people out of hospitals and will prevent the possibility of getting sick with both flu and Covid at the same time,” said Dr Nisar. —(KNO)

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