Double Trouble: Fall in Air Quality During Winter Could Lead to More Covid-19 Cases in Delhi
People, wearing masks to get protection from air-pollution, walk along a road in New Delhi. (Image: PTI)
Approaching winters in New Delhi could mean double trouble this season. For years, the national capital’s air quality has plummeted to the extent that the elderly, children and pregnant women are advised to remain home, polluting industries stop work and vehicles go off roads as part of the odd even formula to contain the menace.
The 24-hour average air quality index (AQI) of the city has been rising for over a week, touching 180 in the ‘moderate’ range, according to the Central Pollution Control Board. The Centre is monitoring the situation while the Delhi government held a high-level meeting on Monday to discuss the way forward.
"States have been told that due to COVID-19, the lungs will be affected. Pollution will increase the severity of the infection, farmers have to be explained that if there is burning, their families will be affected first," said Union Environment Minister Prakash Javdekar on Thursday after holding a review meeting with health ministers of Rajasthan, Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
The meeting was held to review the perennial problem of stubble burning in Punjab that the Delhi government argues is the main source of pollution in the national capital.
Though the causes could be many like polluting industries or vehicles, the outcome has remained the same. Lethal air will only worsen the pandemic crisis.
Dr Bharat Gopal, a senior chest specialist with Delhi's Maharaja Agrasen Hospital, said air pollution makes one prone to getting infected to viruses and bacteria. “And SARS CoV 2 which is the virus that causes COVID-19 is no different. Studies are suggesting that poor air quality can leave people more prone to getting coronavirus and the worsening pollution will lead to chances of death increasing." he says.
Like other respiratory viruses, the apprehension is Sars CoV2 that causes COVID-19 will see a spike in the upcoming winter months. Viruses tend to survive in cold dry air and low humidity promotes evaporation of viral particles and aerosol formations, which can increase the airborne spread of diseases.
Depleting Vitamin D also contributes to decreasing immunity making us more susceptible. "Winter season is seen as a breeding ground for viruses and infections. We must remember that the world is also witnessing a second peak. We are also detecting more severe forms of coronavirus cases as the season progresses," said Dr VK Paul, Member, Health, Niti Aayog
As the prevention fatigue sets in, the message is clear, take all precautions related to hand hygiene and safety, right from to respiratory etiquette to wearing masks, and continuing to walk that extra mile when it comes to protecting yourself from extreme pollution.