Delhi's air quality deteriorates forcing Covid patients back to hospital

Credit: AP

Words by Sanjay Jha, ITV News, Delhi

Air quality in the Indian capital Delhi deteriorated to the "very poor" category on Friday with a rise in the level of pollutants, according to the data shared by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee.

The air quality in Delhi worsened as a reduction in wind speed and a change in wind direction brought in pollutants from stubble fires in the neighbouring north Indian states of Haryana and Punjab.

This caused a spike in pollution levels throughout the country’s northwest.

Across the winter month, India’s capital is regularly covered in toxic haze.

India has the second highest number of confirmed Covid cases worldwide, behind only the USA. Credit: AP

Several public health experts have flagged a spike in the number of patients reporting eye irritation because of toxic pollutants. 

The noxious air causes dry eye disease, which if left untreated, could lead to vision problems, they warn.

This year’s pollution season has been a double whammy for city residents who are already dealing with the coronavirus pandemic - the harmful air has worsened an already precarious health situation.

Many hospitals are seeing increase in recovered Covid patients reporting respiratory complications caused by pollution, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), recurrence of cough and breathlessness.

An anti smog gun sits in a park in Delhi. Credit: AP

In Noida, on the outskirts of Delhi, about 10-15% of  recovered Covid patients have reported allergic symptoms, decreased immunity, fatigue and weakness, said an official from the district health department.

Delhi’s local government has introduced a new public campaign to curb air pollution in a bid to combat the rise in pollution.

Water guns are being used by the local council to spray water on trees and roads in polluted areas of the city as a measure to control air pollution levels.

Water is sprayed on crops in a bid to tackle pollution. Credit: AP

Air pollution is India's biggest health risk, killing around 1.7 million people last year with conditions including stroke, heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer, chronic lung diseases, and neonatal diseases.

Fatalities linked to air pollution included more than one million infants.

India has world’s highest per capita exposure to air pollutants (83.2 mg per cubic mtr) according to The State of Global Air 2020 report released on Wednesday.

The 2019 World Air Quality Report by  IQAir says India has long faced an annual pollution problem, with 21 of the world's worst 30 cities for air pollution in India.

Delhi has been ranked the most polluted city in the world.

The air quality last year reached levels more than 20 times what the World Health Organization (WHO) considers "safe."