COVID-19 and Environmental Factors

Finding out whether there was a relationship between COVID-19 and meteorological, climatological and environmental factors became a pressing concern as the pandemic spread across the globe. WMO supports international COVID-19 research and control efforts in this area by engaging experts through two channels to interrogate the issue and identify where and how meteorological and environmental information can best support research and public health decision-making.

First, the WMO Research Board established a Task Team to monitor the state of knowledge on COVID-19 and linkages to environmental conditions, including air quality, solar radiation, weather and climatic conditions. This expert group will issue periodic authoritative statements, help inform the immediate global response to COVID-19, foster good practice in interdisciplinary research, and help operationalize predictive modeling if deemed necessary. This effort of the Research Board also supports the World Health Organization and the health community at large, as called for by the World Meteorological Congress, to Advance Integrated Health Science and Services.

Secondly, WMO hosted an international symposium online on Climatological, Meteorological and Environmental factors in the COVID-19 pandemic from 4 to 6 August. The symposium attracted 400 researchers and stakeholders from 50 countries, representing a wide range of disciplines and organizations. It reviewed the global state of knowledge to date, discussed what could be reliably predicted about the influence of climatological, meteorological and environmental factors on the trajectory of the COVID-19 epidemic, and identified potential applications and additional research and communication needs.

The symposium's key conclusion was that current peer-reviewed publications on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 disease do not show a robust and consistent response to temperature, humidity, wind, solar radiation, nor other proposed meteorological and environmental drivers. Some evidence exists that suggests regulated indoor environmental conditions, in concert with behavioural factors, indirectly modulates localized spread of the virus. More research is needed on which climatic variables are most critical.

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