The Covid-19 outbreak has triggered a global crisis that is challenging governments, health systems and the scientific community worldwide. A central question in the Covid-19 pandemic is whether climatic factors have influenced its progression. To address this question, we used mortality rates during the first three weeks of recorded mortality in 144 countries, during the first wave of the pandemic. We examined the effect of climatic variables, along with the proportion of the population older than 64 years old, the number of beds in hospitals, and the timing and strength of the governmental travel measures to control the spread of the disease. Our first model focuses on air temperature as the central climatic factor and explains 67% of the variation in mortality rate, with 37% explained by the fixed variables considered and 31% explained by country-specific variations. We show that mortality rate is negatively influenced by warmer air temperature. Each additional Celsius degree decreases mortality rate by ~5%. Our second model is centred on the UV Index and follows the same trend as air temperature, explaining 69% of the variation in mortality rate. These results are robust to the exclusion of countries with low incomes, as well as to the exclusion of low- and medium-income countries. We also show that the proportion of vulnerable age classes and access to healthcare are critical factors impacting the mortality rate of this disease. The effects of air temperature at an early stage of the Covid-19 outbreak is a key factor to understand the primary spread of this pandemic, and should be considered in projecting subsequent waves.
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