Sunlight can kill the coronavirus in just 30 minutes, according to a study that comes as the UK gears up for its hottest week of the year.

Virologists also found powerful ultraviolet (UV) light could destroy 90 per cent of Covid-19 that had been coughed or sneezed onto a surface in just half an hour.

Separate studies have claimed the sun can also almost completely wipe out parts of the virus lingering in the air in just six minutes.

By comparison, it would take roughly an hour and 17 minutes to destroy the virus in the capital in September and nearly three hours in March.

The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 – called SARS-CoV-2 – is covered in a protective casing that degrades under the warmth of the body when it infects someone. When it is coughed or sneezed into the air or onto a surface, UV light will destroy its coating and leave the virus exposed to dry out and decay in the sun.

Some scientists also believe vitamin D, made in the body when exposed to sunlight, boosts the immune system and helps fight off viruses.

Concerns have been raised that social distancing will become an afterthought and mass gatherings could cause a spike in transmission again but researchers say being outdoors is safer than being cooped up inside, where Covid-19 can survive and stay infectious for days.

The study, by Dr Jose-Luis Sagripanti, a retired US army virologist, and Dr David Lytle, a former US Government virologist, has been published in the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology. 

Several studies have also suggested vitamin D can shield people from falling seriously unwell with COVID-19, with sunshine being one of the best sources of the vital vitamin.

The study also suggests that the mandatory stay-at-home orders issued in hopes of stopping the spread of coronavirus may have been more harmful than good.

“In contrast, healthy people outdoors receiving sunlight could have been exposed to lower viral dose with more chances for mounting an efficient immune response,” the study said.

Past research has shown that during the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918-’19, patients who were exposed to fresh air and sunshine in “open-air hospitals” may have had a better chance at survival.

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