The Link Between COVID-19 Lockdowns And Air Quality
COVID-19 has been a tragedy to the lives of the people, physically, mentally, and economically. A lot of individuals have succumbed to the virus that led to many deaths in just three months. It also took a big hit in the economy, given that the business sector stopped its operation due to the numerous lockdowns. Lastly, the pandemic has also made a massive toll on mental health.
“The many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic ─ fear of the disease, isolation, economic uncertainty and the loss of our normal routines ─ are taking a significant toll on our mental health,” shares Danny Gladden, MBA, MSW, LCSW. “For months now, mental health providers across the nation have felt the growing demand for their services and have adapted to deliver care to their clients during the pandemic.”
Despite this, there is one aspect in the world who is rejoicing – Mother Earth. As cities all over the globe underwent lockdown, studies revealed that air quality, in general, has steadily improved. Let’s take a look at some proof.
Ho Chi Minh And Hanoi City
Believe it or not, Vietnam streets are considered one of the most congested and chaotic roads in Southeast Asia. This situation is brought about by the numerous motorbikes traversing the area, leaving a wake of black smokes for the pedestrians. Statistics showed that there are around 58 million motorbikes in the country. Most of these damages the environment more because of its limited emission control technology.
Hanoi even ranked among the top 10, 7th to be exact, most polluted cities as revealed by the World Air Quality Report in 2019. They are in a higher place than Beijing, China!
Hoang Duong Tung, Vietnam Clean Air Partnership’s chairman, broadcasted that the number of motor vehicles on the streets dropped by 80 percent during the lockdown. This drop in number resulted in an improved AQI index in Hanoi of 105 in May from 157 in February. Ho Chi Minh City also has a notable improvement of the AQI index to 41 as of mid-May from 83 in February.
Research shows that there was a 64% reduction in nitrogen dioxide concentrations in Wuhan, China, amid lockdown. Experts revealed that this improvement in air quality also contributed to the prevention of approximately 500 deaths in Wuhan, 3370 in Hubei province, and 10,900 in the whole of China.
The stringent lockdowns in the area caused many businesses around the city to close 24/7. Citizens also had movement limitations, so the use of vehicles significantly dropped. It led to a considerably low nitrogen dioxide concentration compared to the usual conditions before COVID-19.
Glasgow is known to be one of the top pollution hot-spot in Scotland. Researchers, however, noted a significant improvement in air quality during the coronavirus lockdown. Let’s take Hope Street, for example. This road is famous for being the most polluted area in the country. Most people see this as a street canyon, given that it is surrounded by tall buildings with little to no circulating area to disperse the pollution from buses, cars, and lorries.
According to experts, there is a significant link between pollution and vehicle traffic. Since most businesses are closed and most of the employees are now working at home, there is a reduction in vehicle movement on the roads. The air pollution level in Glasgow, Scotland, decreased to 24 micrograms per cubic meter of nitrogen dioxide levels. It came from a whopping 57 micrograms per cubic meter pre-COVID.
The heart of the country’s economy, Singapore’s Central Business District, is one of the busiest parts in this country. You’d almost feel that every single hour is considered a rush hour. It’s a bustling city until the lockdown happened.
There was a temporary stopping ordinance on various activities such as restaurant and school closures and stricter telecommuting strategies for most businesses. It shifted its ambiance from a financial hub to a ghost town.
Thus, Singapore’s AQI index of 56 in March lowered to 36 in the last weeks of May. This position falls under the ‘Good’ air quality category. Although, experts predict that the index increased last June again, given that economic activities resumed that month.
Because of the imposed quarantine protocols to curb the virus’ spread, it’s as if there was a sudden standstill in our busy lives. Even though the global pandemic helped the world heal the environment, it’s something that we wish would not continue. COVID-19 has claimed millions of lives and is continuing to do so.