Improved air quality in Covid-19 lockdown

Improved air quality during lockdown averted tens of thousands of premature deaths, according to a study published in The Lancet Planetary Health.

Between February and March, the researchers found that an estimated 24,200 premature deaths associated with PM2.5 pollution were averted throughout China. This compares to the reported 3309 fatalities from Covid-19. In Europe, although Covid-19 fatalities were far higher, a reduction in pollution meant that 2109 premature deaths were avoided.

The researchers highlight that the averted fatality figures become much larger when the long-term effects are considered (up to 287,000 in China and 29,500 in Europe).

Paola Crippa, lead author of the study said: “It was somewhat unexpected to see that the number of averted fatalities in the long term due to air quality improvements is similar to the Covid-19 related fatalities, at least in China where a small number of Covid-19 casualties were reported. These results underline the severity of air quality issues in some areas of the world and the need for immediate action.”

Source: Air Quality News, 19 October 2020.

Link to the study “Short-term and long-term health impacts of air pollution reductions from Covid-19 lockdowns in China and Europe: a modelling study”:

In this issue


The clock is ticking to achieve the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement. To be clear right from the start: this goal deserves every effort that mankind can pull off. In the name of realism, this is the goal we must focus on now, given the current level of progress in reducing greenhouse gases. However, damage to marine ecosystems will not be avoided even if we reach this goal1. In fact, damage already occurs at current levels of warming, as evidenced by the bleaching of coral reefs2. This may be an inconvenient truth when our current goal is 1.5°C.

Read more