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Air pollution worsens corona, need to keep it low post-lockdown

Air pollution worsens corona, need to keep it low post-lockdown

Air pollution has plummeted over many parts of India during the nationwide lockdown, but the real challenge will begin once the lockdown is lifted on May 3. Vehicles will begin to ply and factories will be back in operation.

Experts say after lockdown steps have to be taken to curb air pollution, which also include dust, as high pollution levels would make people vulnerable to coronavirus, which manifests itself in the respiratory tract.

Doctor Arvind Kumar, Founder and Managing Trustee Lung Care Foundation, said if the lockdown had not happened and the pollution levels had not dipped, going by the north Italy experience, the coronavirus would have spread faster.

"Every effort should be made to keep the pollution level low, which also includes dust pollution. High pollution level will contribute towards faster spread of the virus", said Kumar. A study was conducted on the air quality in Italy's northern provinces — Lombardy and Emilia Romagna — which found a connection between Covid-19 mortality rates and high levels of pollution.

Kumar, presently Chairman Centre for Chest Surgery and Director, Institute of Robotic Surgery, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital said, "The evidence we have is pretty clear that people, who live in places that are more polluted, over time they are more vulnerable to coronavirus."

According to data compiled by IQAir AirVisual's 2019 World Air Quality Report, 21 of the world's 30 cities with the worst air pollution are in India, with six in the top ten. In the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP), the air pollution is worsened by geographical and other factors, highest population density area coupled with industrial clusters.

According to the World Health Organization, outdoor air pollution kills 4.2 million people across the globe each year.

Manoj Goel, Director Pulmonology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, said that due to air pollution, patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and asthma can have uncontrolled symptoms, and this group of people can have severe complications due to coronavirus. "Historically pollution levels have been high. We need to keep pollution levels low to contain the spread of coronavirus," added Goel.

A study at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that even small increases in fine particulate matter, PM2.5, have had a big effect in the US. The study said that an increase of just one microgram per cubic metre corresponded to a 15 per cent increase in Covid-19 deaths.

Summer is mostly hot and humid in many parts of the country, if pollution levels are high after the lockdown, then it will further worsen the coronavirus situation in the country. "In humid conditions the chances of survival of coronavirus are high", said Goel..