To reduce the chances of getting infected by the Covid-19 coronavirus, you should switch off the air-conditioner, turn on the fan and get fresh air – on top of washing hands and disinfecting surfaces.

The reason is that while many unknowns remain about the virus, earlier studies have shown that viruses thrive better in cool, dry climates.

That would make tropical Singapore, with its hot and tropical weather, less conducive for the virus to thrive.

“The likelihood of viral persistence outdoors is lower,” says Ministry of Health’s (MOH) chief health scientist Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, as he noted the prevalent use of air-conditioning in Singapore.

Prof Tan shares that plenty of research had been done into how long viruses persist on surfaces following the outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) in 2003.

“Most of the studies indicate they don’t persist well in hot, humid environments,” he added. “Hot and humid meaning over 30 deg C, and with humidity levels of over 80 per cent.”

The virus that caused Sars is in the same family as the coronavirus which originated in Wuhan and has spread globally.

Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, programme leader of infectious diseases at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Saw Swee Hock School, says: “Air-conditioning is something that can’t be helped in Singapore, especially during the hot months.

“But enclosed spaces, where it is less humid and cooler, could help to spread respiratory diseases.”

Keep windows, doors open

Experts suggest that another way to reduce the spread of diseases is to keep windows and doors open to ventilate the rooms.

The World Health Organization, in a document outlining how to prevent the coronavirus from infecting people, said suspected cases should be kept in well-ventilated rooms.

Professor Wang Linfa, director for the programme in emerging infectious diseases at the Duke-NUS Medical School, says ultra-violet rays and heat from the sun could kill the virus.

“If you can stay under the sun for a while, it would be good,” he adds. “Vitamin D can also boost the immune system.”

Originally published in The Straits Times.