Research Highlights

UV forecasts could predict COVID-19 spread

Published online 21 September 2022

Higher UV radiation was linked to lower case numbers. 

Biplab Das

Ultraviolet radiation in natural sunlight may reduce COVID-19 transmission, according to a  modelling study by a team from Qatar and France. 

Previous studies have suggested that the climate may affect COVID-19 spread. Data from the 1918 flu pandemic, which waxed and waned with seasons, support this association. However, the climate’s role in COVID-19 spread is still not well understood. 

Scientists modelled COVID-19 transmission in 196 countries over 14 months, and used data on socioeconomic, meteorological, environmental and global health factors for statistical, machine learning and econometric analyses. 

The researchers found that solar irradiance and higher UV radiation were strongly correlated with lower COVID-19 cases in all the analyses. Other meteorological factors showed contrasting effects on the disease. Temperature and absolute humidity had negative correlation in the statistical method but a weak positive association in the machine learning technique. Environmental factors, such as concentrations of fine particles or particulate matter and air pressure, displayed a positive, but weak correlation.  

Socioeconomic and global health factors, such as policies on school closures, stay-at-home requirements, and COVID-19 tracing and testing revealed a somewhat weakly negative correlation. 

The findings corroborate those of laboratory experiments, by separate researchers, which show that UV light can effectively kill SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses. 

UV level forecasts could help assess the risk of COVID-19 spread, says lead researcher, Antonio Sanfilippo, an expert on artificial intelligence at the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, Hamad Bin Khalifa University.