The outbreak of COVID-19 has created a serious public health concern worldwide. Although most regions of the world have been affected by the virus, some regions are more affected than others in terms of infections and death rates. The exact reasons for these variations are not yet clear.

The results of most of the studies reviewed here demonstrate that short- and long-term exposure to air pollution, especially PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), can contribute significantly to higher rates of infections and mortality, and to a lesser extent also PM10. A significant correlation between air pollution, infections and mortality from COVID-19 has been found in some countries around the world.

Available data indicate that exposure to air pollution may influence virus transmission. In addition, this exposure may increase vulnerability and have a detrimental effect on the prognosis of patients affected by infections such as COVID-19.

The hypothesis that the new coronavirus could take advantage of the “highways” formed by atmospheric particles is a challenging point that, in our opinion, deserves more immediate and in-depth experimental investigations. It is hoped that prompt action will be taken to clarify the dynamics involved in the current pandemic.

In the first weeks of the global Covid-19 pandemic, people desperate for good news received a small glimmer of hope: the Himalayas were once again visible, spanning the northern Indian horizon for what could be the first time in 30 years.

As cities around the world came to a standstill in March and April to curb the rapid spread of the virus, many urban residents saw a silver lining where air pollution was concerned. Kenyans reported seeing the jagged peaks of Mount Kenya from behind Nairobi’s skyscrapers, and NASA satellite data showed a drop in pollution on roads through the northeastern corridor of the United States.

“This is stark confirmation of the contribution of our daily activities to the sources of emissions of the air pollutants we breathe and the greenhouse gases that drive global warming,” the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) Science Advisory Group and invited experts wrote in May. “The speed with which emissions have fallen demonstrates how quickly we can improve our environment when motivated and how vulnerable we are to living in degraded environments.”

As the Acting Secretary General of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) said: “The air may be clearing in Italy, but the damage has already been done to human health and people’s ability to fight infections. Governments should have tackled chronic air pollution long ago, but they have prioritised economics over health. Science tells us that epidemics like COVID-19 will occur with increasing frequency. So, cleaning up the streets is a basic investment in a healthier future. Two images taken by NASA’s Sentinel-5 satellite show the concentration of nitrogen levels over China before and after the closure of COVID.

Clean air is a human right. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for a large part of the world’s population. Globally, around 9 in 10 people are exposed to air pollution at levels above WHO air quality guidelines.

As a result, some 7 million people die each year due to ambient or household air pollution. While this figure is impressive, it is only the tip of the iceberg, as there is also a huge burden of illnesses, hospitalizations, reduced life expectancies, and the associated social and economic impacts of lost productivity and health care costs.

Although the problem of air pollution is increasingly recognized and addressed by both governments and civil society, action is too slow, especially in the most affected regions of the world. Most countries suffer from constant unhealthy levels of air pollutants and regular acute peaks.

To communicate the risks associated with air pollution, it is necessary to have information that is not only accessible to the public, but also easily understandable. The risk must be made more visible and detectable at the local level. People are motivated to control their environment and their destiny, and this motivation should be reinforced.

SIARQ plays a key role in the monitoring and control of atmospheric emissions. It provides the key tools to visualize data in real time, download environmental reports and always inform citizens about the air that they breathe.