Health impacts
12 June 2020
Air pollutants
Premature deaths
Health Impact Assessment
Publications and Scientific Resources

The dramatic impact of Coronavirus outbreak on air quality: Has it saved as much as it has killed so far?

This work compares the state of air quality before and after the coronavirus crisis, using the example of the Chinese city of Wuhan. It uses historical air quality data, estimates of annual deaths and the economic burden of air quality to assess the scope of the pandemic, as well as its impact on air pollution-related deaths.

The outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) was first reported in Wuhan, China, on 31 December 2019. Since then, numerous scientific studies have sought to investigate the nature of this virus and assess the short- and long-term effects of this disease, as well as possible links to air pollution.


As this report points out, in order to reduce the spread of the virus, China has been forced to curb its industrial activities. Over the period, for example, the country's NO2 emissions fell by 30 percent while its carbon emissions fell by 25 percent. As Isaifan tries to show here, the significant drop in air pollution due to COVID-19 quarantine measures would have had a positive impact on human health. Indeed, the mortality rate due to air pollution is estimated at 7.6%, compared to 3.4% for COVID-19 as of March 11. Thus, according to Isaifan, "the air quality status before the crisis was compared with the current situation showing that COVID-19 forced-industrial and anthropogenic activities lockdown may have saved more lives by preventing ambient air pollution than by preventing infection".


Auteur: Isaifan, R. J. Division of Sustainable Development, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar Foundation, Education City, P.O. Box 5825, Doha, Qatar