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Current Affairs

Cleaner air saved more lives than claimed by COVID-19 in China

Date: 18 May 2020 Tags: Reports & Indices


A new study has quantified that for China, an estimated 12,125 deaths were prevented during the country’s countrywide ban on traffic mobility between February 10 and March 14. The study found that this is higher than the lives lost to the pandemic.



Lockdowns around the world, enforced with the objective of slowing the spread of Covid-19, have also visibly reduced air pollution. 



  • The researchers agreed that the findings cannot be directly applied to other countries but felt that reductions of air pollution levels have likely brought health benefits in those countries, too. 

  • This way of having clean air through massive quarantine and travel restrictions is not sustainable and likely to be only temporary for a short period of time.

  • The estimates are based on changes in daily concentrations of two air pollutants, nitrogen dioxide and PM2.5, in 367 Chinese cities from January 1, 2016 to March 14, 2020.

  • The researchers calculated the changes in air quality in 2020 (during quarantine versus before quarantine) and compared these findings with corresponding changes in the same periods for 2016 to 2019.

  • Accounting for these earlier years helped factor in the already declining pollution levels in China on account of the country’s clean air policy. For calculating the deaths prevented due to reduced levels of these two pollutants, the study used equations based on the findings of another recent study.

  • The researchers wrote that their estimates should be interpreted with caution because of the potential overlap between deaths caused by PM 2.5 and by nitrogen dioxide, and the effect on mortality rate caused by disruptions in healthcare systems.