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Air Pollution

Delhi Fighting A Dual Battle Of Coronavirus And Air Pollution, Warn Experts

Air pollution and spike in coronavirus cases in the national capital worry healthcare experts, here’s why

Delhi Fighting A Dual Battle Of Coronavirus And Air Pollution, Warn Experts
  • Air quality levels in Delhi IS in the ‘very poor’ category
  • Healthcare experts warn citizens as it may lead to spike in COVID cases
  • Delhi on October 25, recorded 4,136 fresh COVID-19 cases

New Delhi: It is that time of the year again when the national capital chokes on toxic air. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), in the first two weeks of October, Delhi’s air quality index was worse than in the same period in 2018 and 2019. The air pollution has worsened after the celebrations of Dussehra as firecrackers were burned, nearly doubling the concentration of pollutants at five monitoring stations after 6pm on Sunday, authorities have said. As per data from the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), with the rise of pollutants in the atmosphere, the quality of air deteriorated further and the Air Quality Index of Anand Vihar region stood at 405 and was marked in the ‘severe category’. Areas like ITO, Rohini, Dwarka, Ashok Vihar, Bawana, Jahangirpuri, Sri Aurobindo Marg and several other locations were marked in the ‘very poor’ category. An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered ‘good’, 51 and 100 ‘satisfactory’, 101 and 200 ‘moderate’, 201 and 300 ‘poor’, 301 and 400 ‘very poor’, and 401 and 500 ‘severe’.

Also Read: Air Pollution Rises In Delhi-NCR, Gurugram Citizens Call For Action Against Waste Burning And Tackle It Like COVID-19

High levels of air pollution in Delhi is a year-round problem, which can be attributed to unfavourable meteorological conditions, farm fires in neighbouring regions and local sources of pollution. As Delhi gears up for another polluted winter, several public health experts have flagged concerns and said this may increase the transmissibility of the coronavirus, making people more vulnerable to the disease and aggravating the COVID-19 situation in the national capital.

Explaining how air pollution can lead to higher infection rate, Ronak Sutaria, founder of Mumbai-based startup Respirer Living Sciences, working on building devices that can help monitor the air quality in India, said,

There are published studies that have said that aerosols particles that are less than 5 microns have been found as the source of transmission for COVID-19, especially in very closed areas where is no ventilation. And that’s when the double whammy starts – as residents are staying at home and inside there is not much of ventilation, so if PM level starts going higher and if one of the residents fall ill and get infected with COVID there are much higher chances that the rest of the members will catch the infection as inside home there is more aerosols floating that can become the source of transmission.

Also Read: “Respiratory Viruses Known To Thrive During Winters,” Warns Health Minister In His Weekly Address, Here Are Other Takeaways

Commenting on the link of higher cases in the national capital in past few days due to the growing air pollution in the city, Dr P Sudhakar, CPR Environmental Centre added,

We cannot say 100 per cent that the spike in cases is due to air pollution, the spike is also because of individuals not taking appropriate steps for the prevention of this highly contagious infection like wearing a mask, practising social distancing and washing hands regularly. Some percentage of this spike can be attributed to air pollution as the particles present in the air currently are the key source of transmission of the virus. I think, what we need is policy level changes on ground, which are more long term solutions because this is A year-round problem.

Explaining the possible problems in terms of healthcare system, Dr Rajesh Malhotra, Chief, COVID Facility, AIIMS, said,

The first issue with rising air pollution is that more and more people will face breathing problems, cough – which are also the symptoms of COVID-19. So, at an individual level it becomes difficult for a person to distinguish. Secondly, we have been seeing increase in cases of dengue in the recent months, people have fear that they will catch COVID if they come out and get treated in hospitals and therefore, early treatment and detection of the disease is not happening, as a result people coming to the hospitals today are more severe, which is making this entire process very complicated as the symptoms are overlapping.

Also Read: Air Pollution Killed Nearly 5 Lakh Newborns Worldwide, Over 1 Lakh In India In 2019: State Of Global Air 2020 Report

NDTV also spoke to Vivek Adhia, Country Director-India, Institute for Sustainable Communities, an NGO Driving innovative sustainability and climate solutions by transforming communities, he added,

Delhi’s air pollution this winter may not only cause the usual annual disruption, but is also very likely to deepen the health crisis as a severe result of the coronavirus pandemic. Over the years, we have seen clear linkages between public health, social impacts and increased air pollution, with spike in pollution levels halting schools, offices, day-to-day activities IN the National Capital Region. Now, imagine all this crisis in addition to the COVID pandemic. Sustained exposure to high concentration of air pollutants aggravate respiratory disorders, weakening lungs and immune systems. This might increase vulnerability, and make citizens more susceptible to COVID-19 adverse impacts. All our positive gains, and high-recovery rates can fall flat, if we are not able to address the air pollution challenge. Delhi has been continuing on an upward trend in the number of COVID-19 infections, reflecting a third phase of rise since September 25, 2020 and the onset of winter based air pollution highs have just set-in. If this trend continues, we may be in for an extended round of lockdowns again. This time coupled with air pollution-induced public health emergency – causing significant challenges on social and economic systems.

Stressing on the point what government and authorities can do to tackle this year-round problem of air pollution in the country, Dr Gurpreet Sandhu, President, Council for Healthcare and Pharma said,

The government needs to invest more in energy-efficient housing and power generation and manage industry and municipal waste effectively. It must take steps to control burning of agricultural waste and crop residue, and prevent forest fires. It must encourage safe and affordable public transport systems and pedestrian- and cycle-friendly tracks. Strict rules and regulations must be enforced for pollution emitting sources and stricter action must be taken against those who break the law.

He further said it is possible that India will experience the second peak of coronavirus in the winter months and added,

Lower winter temperatures and the rise in pollution levels caused by the burning of crop stubble in North India could lead to a rise in COVID-19 cases. Typically, Asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) infections are known to go up at this time of the year. People who have recovered from COVID-19 remain particularly susceptible as their lungs are still weak. Therefore, wearing masks and following social distancing norms is a must during this period and will not only help to avoid COVID but respiratory infections as well.

Commenting on the steps taken by Delhi Government in the recent past to address the issue of Air Pollution such as approving the installation of ₹20 cr ‘smog tower’ in Connaught Place and initiating an anti-pollution campaign like ‘Red Light On, Gaadi Off’, for which 2,500 environment marshals at 100 traffic signals across the city will generate awareness to limit vehicular pollution, Dr Gurpreet Sandhu said,

All these initiatives will help us a lot in combating the issue of Air Pollution. But still we need to find more rigid and long term effective solution to make sure that this doesn’t repeat year after year. Right now we don’t know much about the effectiveness of the smog tower as well.

Also Read: Doctors In Delhi See Jump In Breathing Issues Amid COVID-19, Pollution

Status Of Coronavirus Cases In Delhi

According to a Delhi Government bulletin, the national capital on October 25, recorded 4,136 fresh COVID-19 cases, the highest single-day spike in past 38 days, while the death count from the disease mounted to 6,258. This was the third consecutive day when over 4,000 cases were recorded in the city. On October 24, 4,116 new cases were reported, on Friday, 4,086 new cases were recorded and 3,882 were reported a day before. 

The number of people in home isolation have risen to 16,115 from 15,808 on October 24.

Since September 19, new cases were reported below the 4,000-mark until on October 23. The tally of active cases on October 25 rose to 26,744. The total number of cases climbed to 3,56,656, according to Delhi Government latest data. The number of containment zones in Delhi has also increased to 2,893 from 2,840 on October 24.

The positivity rate on October 25 stood at 8.17%, while the recovery rate was over 90%, the bulletin said, adding the case fatality rate stood at 1.76%. According to the bulletin, out of the total number of 15,756 beds in COVID hospitals, 10,473 are vacant. The number of Rapid Antigen Tests conducted on October 25 stood at 34,442 while the RT-PCR, CBNAAT (Cartridge Based Nucleic Acid Amplification Test) and TrueNat tests figures were 14,627 in all, adding to 49,069, according to the bulletin.

The number of tests done per million, as on October 25, was over 2.29 lakh, while the total number of tests stood at over 43.64 lakh.

As of now, 3,23,654 patients have recovered in the national capital.

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene


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