Under those circumstances, the effect of long-term air pollution in South Asia should already have been seen in the pandemic’s death rates over the summer. India has endured one of the world’s worst outbreaks recording nearly eight million cases and 120,000 deaths.
But high air pollution could have other effects, which worsen the effect of Covid in the short term. That could lead to a spike in severe cases to coincide with the smog.
Firstly, underlying health conditions can be worsened by the arrival of smoggy air and that could lead to more severe cases, said Dr Randeep Guleria, Director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
“If people are inhaling pollutants into the airways, that itself causes airways inflammation and leads to the worsening of underlying respiratory conditions,” he told ANI last week.
“In such a situation, if people get Covid infection, they may have a more severe infection which might lead to higher mortality because of this combination,” he said.
Moreover, the particles of dust and smoke that make up the smog could help spread the virus themselves. Previous research has shown that viruses and microbes can get carried along on floating particles of pollution. This could potentially see the virus borne further afield than normal and remain suspended in the air for longer, which means more people are at risk of infection.