An analysis reported on by the Guardian’s Environmental editor, Damian Carrington, 20 Apr 2020, says high levels of air pollution seem to be a major long-term contributor to deaths from Covid-19. The deadly factors are NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) emissions combined with weather conditions that hold polluted air stationery over a city for long periods of time.

It found that the case fatality rate (CFR) in Europe, the number of deaths per diagnosed cases, were concentrated in four regions along the Po Valley in northern Italy and one around Madrid in Spain. What these regions have in common is that they are surrounded by mountains, which helps trap pollution. This is also the case of Hubei province in China, where the pandemic began.

And it is also the case, as we first reported in post #109 of 22 January 12019, of the city of Granada. So it hardly comes as any surprise that Granada is the place in Andalucia with by far the highest number of COVID19 infected, 389 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to an average of just 145 for the rest of the autonomous region.

The analysis shows a strong correlation between NO2 and COVID19, not a proven direct causal link. Other factors cannot be ruled out. Indeed, other factors affecting the CFR are known to be the underlying poor health of the smitten individual. Another condemning piece of evidence is a study which suggests the virus can cling to particles of air pollution, helping to keep it airborn for longer.

A noticeable reduction in air pollution has certainly been a welcome and unexpected blessing of the lockdown. Yet let us not be lulled into a false sense of security. Long-term exposure to dirty air that goes back to before the pandemic is undoubtedly a key factor in creating the long-term underlying health conditions that have led to an increased vulnerability to the virus. The virus finishes off what the decline in air quality has started. But the conditions that create poor health will not go away by themselves.

Let’s repeat: We want no return to ‘normality’.

Granada vista … THEN
Granada vista … NOW

Damian Carrington, Guardian Environment editor, Mon 20 Apr 2020