The relationship between COVID-19 and air quality is complex and a number of studies are currently being carried out to better understand the health links. It is early days and evidence will keep emerging but to date we can say for certain that:
Health conditions that are caused or worsened by air pollution - such as asthma, heart disease and COPD - make a person more vulnerable to complications if they contract COVID-19. If any person contracts COVID-19, which is principally a respiratory illness, they can become short of breath. It is therefore imperative that those recovering from and managing respiratory illnesses have access to clean air. Statement verified by our expert panel*
During the recent lockdown we have seen some dramatic reductions in the air pollutant nitrogen dioxide. As lockdown eases, we must avoid a sudden surge in air pollution exposing the UK public, and those who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, to dirty air. The government’s exit strategy must bring the life and business back to our streets, but not the air pollution. We must #BuildBackCleanerAir – through investment in safe walking and cycling routes, accelerating the transition to zero tailpipe emission vehicles and enabling social distancing on public transport. So, keeping polluting vehicle use to a minimum.
*Air quality expert panel: Professor Stephen Holgate (Medical Research Council Clinical Professor of Immunopharmacology), Professor Briony Turner (Climate Services Development Manager, IEA & Space4Climate), Professor Frank Kelly (Humphrey Battcock Chair of Environment and Health, Imperial College London), Dr Heather Walton (Senior Lecturer in Environmental Health, King’s College London).