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Home / Science / Health /  Heatwave could worsen impact of covid-19, warn global scientists

NEW DELHI: As India witnesses severe heatwave in the some parts and braces for hotter than normal summer season this year, global network of health and climate experts have called for stronger measures to keep people safe from heat stress amid the risk of covid-19 transmission.

The frequency of heatwaves is expected to increase in India, with IMD expecting the seasonal average maximum temperatures to remain 0.5°C to 1°C higher than usual over northwest India and western peninsular India during April-June.

While there is no evidence to suggest that the scorching summer would have any effect on the transmission of covid-19, experts are worried it could instead worsen the outcomes of those infected, especially considering the year 2020 is also set to be one of the hottest years on record.

“It could increase transmission rates as people congregate outdoors and in public spaces. The hot weather conditions may complicate Covid-19 responses by increasing patient loads, and burden other critical systems at a time when many are already at the breaking point. In areas, where the case load is already high, a severe heat event could cause mass casualties," said Global Heat Health Information Network (GHHIN), an international group of scientists from WHO and WMO joint office of climate and health.

Heat waves have proven to be the deadliest weather hazards globally over the last five years.

According to Ministry of Earth Sciences, India has lost as many as 3,176 lives to blazing heatwaves from 2015 to 2018, which also have got more frequent. Last year, India witnessed one of the most intense and longest heatwaves in June, with delayed arrival of monsoon.

“Heat stress could render people more susceptible to Covid-19 infection, especially the elderly. Even the health care workers and others workforce which is required to wear Personal Protection Equipments (PPEs) all the time can be more vulnerable to heat stress," highlighted the GHIN experts, raising major concerns over heat exposure to resource poor families or the low income persons who would be disproportionately affected.

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), too has issued separate guidelines in view of the emerging concerns, for frontline workers, asking them to remain hydrated and reduce working hours or avoid strenuous work during peak heat hours.

The authority has urged people to wear masks all all time, despite the heat, and remain indoors as much as possible, and avoid going out during peak hours.

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