‘Odd-even last resort’: Delhi environment minister on air pollution
New Delhi, Oct 19: Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai said on Monday that implementing the odd-even scheme in the national capital will be AAP government's last resort to curb air pollution.
"We have implemented the odd-even scheme many times in Delhi. It would be our last resort and we'll think about its implementation if the rest of the methods to curb the air pollution fail," Rai told reporters.
Delhi-NCR is bracing for months of poor air quality. The national capital's air quality was in the 'poor' category on Sunday morning.
According to doctors, respiratory illnesses like viral influenza increase with a spike in pollution levels as poor air quality leads to inflammation in the lungs making it more vulnerable for the virus to penetrate.
"This year, we have COVID-19. Like the common cold, the transmission of this virus is expected to increase with a rise in pollution levels. We may see a further surge in cases.
"It would be a taxing time for testing centres as they have to cater to people with coronavirus and also non-COVID patients with similar symptoms," Dr Neeraj Nischal, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at AIIMS, told PTI.
Experts feel the worst-affected would be people in the lower socioeconomic class with no access to masks and also vulnerable to additional risk factors such as chulla smoke.
"Transmission apart, the presentation of COVID-19 like other viral respiratory illnesses will be more severe in high-pollution areas. This will burden hospitals as more patients become symptomatic, requiring admission," Dr Nischal said.
These factors are likely to become more effective during the festive season and winters, particularly in north India where stubble burning is common and this affects air quality severely, he said.
He cautioned that people with respiratory illness, like asthma and bronchitis, were at much higher risk of contracting coronavirus infection.
"For people who have tested positive for COVID-19, it is going to be a double whammy, with pollution making things worse," he told PTI.
Doctors warn that even those who have had COVID-19 in the past are not out of the woods.