The increasing pollution levels in Delhi and adjoining areas may contribute to the increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths due to the virus, experts said on Tuesday.
Speaking at the Union Health Ministry's press conference, Dr. VK Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog, and Dr Balram Bhargava, Director General (DG ) of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) agreed that increasing pollution around the national capital and adjoining areas may lead to increase in Coronavirus cases.
"We have heard that the effect of the disease may increase with the increased pollution, but we are yet to understand it fully," said Dr Paul.
Answering a question, Dr Bhargava also agreed with Dr Paul and said pollution might be a contributing factor to mortality in COVID-19 infection.
"There have been studies from Europe and the US, where they have looked at polluted areas and have compared mortality during lockdown and correlation with pollution, and found clearly that pollution is contributing to mortality in COVID, that's well established by studies," ICMR chief said.
Air quality deteriorates in the national capital with the rise of pollutants in the atmosphere and overall Delhi's Air Quality Index (AQI) is in the "very poor" category, said the Delhi Pollution Control Committee data on Tuesday.
Dr Arvind Kumar, Chairman of Centre for Chest Surgery Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, in an earlier interaction with said that people having pre-existing lung ailments are more vulnerable to catch COVID-19 infection, and therefore, they should be extra careful.
Dr Vikash Maurya, Head of Respiratory medicine department at Fortis Hospital also said that with the COVID-19 crisis, pollution is going to be a big challege this year.
"This is just the start of air pollution. Air quality has already become poor and will worse in the coming days. Its side-effect would be seen after the Diwali celebration and extreme winters. The bottom line is- we have to be cautious now as this time we have covid19 crisis too and this is going to be a very big challenge for all of us," said Dr Maurya.
According to an ICMR study, about 4 lakh deaths in India in 2017 were due to air pollution, which included 6.7 lakh deaths due to outdoor particulate matter air pollution and 4.8 lakh deaths due to household air pollution. The highest PM2.5 exposure level was in Delhi, followed by the other north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Haryana.
( With inputs from ANI )
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