Satellite images have revealed how air pollution has fallen dramatically in cities across the world due to COVID-19 lockdown measures.
Figures from the European Environment Agency show in places like Milan, one of the cities worst hit by the pandemic, that average concentrations of NO2 for the past four weeks have been at least 24 % lower than four weeks earlier this year. The average concentration during the week of 16-22 March was 21 % lower than for the same week in 2019.
In Bergamo, there has been a constant decline in NO2 pollution over the past four weeks. The average concentration during the week of 16-22 March was 47% lower than for the same week in 2019.
Similar trends can be seen in other European cities where lockdown measures have been implemented during the week of 16-22 March.
In Barcelona, average NO2 levels went down by 40% from one week to the next. Compared with the same week in 2019, the reduction was 55%.
However, the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) said that despite the drops in pollution, “the damage is already done” to those patients that had previously fallen ill with lung and heart conditions as a result of air pollution, making them more susceptible to succumbing to the coronavirus.
Sascha Marschang, EPHA acting secretary general, said: “The damage is already done. Years of breathing in dirty air from traffic fumes and other sources will have weakened the health of all those who are now embroiled in a life or death fight against COVID-19.
“Yet even after the dieselgate scandal, millions of non-compliant vehicles are still blackening the air. Cars and cities need to clean up and the EU’s new zero pollution goal is the perfect reason for taking determined action to dramatically lower air pollution levels when the COVID crisis is over.”