OVER the past few days the level of dangerous particles in air known as PM 2.5 has risen in Bangkok and many other areas of this country and this could exacerbate the Covid-19 pandemic as shown by multiple studies, TV Channel 7 said this evening (Oct. 26).
The current increase of fine particulate matter of no more than 2.5 microns, or PM 2.5, is just the beginning as from the end of the year to the beginning of next year it will likely bounce back continuously.
Dr. Thiravat Hemachudha, head Chulalongkorn University’s Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases, said the increase of PM 2.5 dust levels would make the Covid-19 pandemic more severe.
Even though the fine dust is not a direct carrier of Covid infection it does weaken our lungs and this makes it easier for the virus to attack. This then increases the risk of infection and death, he said.
The same principle applies to protecting ourselves from dust and Covid with this being to wear face masks even though we might already be fully vaccinated and avoid touching one’s face and eyes and washing hands often.
Research has found that rising PM 2.5 causes coronavirus to spread faster through increased coughing and sneezing. This leads to people becoming more easily infected, particularly with respiratory diseases, and when infected with Covid-19 the symptoms are severe.
An analysis in the United States by researchers at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that higher levels of PM 2.5 were associated with higher death rates from the coronavirus.
An increase of PM 2.5 level by 1 microgram per cubic metre raised the risk of contracting severe Covid-19 and dying from the disease by 8 percent.
Another study conducted in Milan, Italy, from January 1 to April 30, 2020 also found that areas where air quality was worse or the dust level high led to an increase in the number of Covid cases both in terms of new infections, total number of cases and fatalities.
A recent study by the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases looked at 2,038 Covid-19 patients admitted to hospitals. The researchers found that Covid patients with history of living in areas with high PM 2.5 dust levels faced greater risk of being critically ill from this disease and there was two to three times greater chance that they would be placed in ICU and have to use ventilator compared to those living in areas with lower dust statistics.
Meanwhile the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) said this morning there were 7,706 Covid cases and 66 deaths over the past 24 hours with this increasing the cumulative confirmed total since the start of the pandemic to 1,866,863.
Of the new batch of cases 7,234 emerged in surveillance and healthcare systems, 334 were found through proactive search in communities, 128 fell sick in prisons and detention centres while 10 foreign arrivals tested positive.
Another 9,532 patients were cured while 98,150 are still undergoing treatment with 2,414 in severe condition and 544 requiring ventilators.
Today’s 66 fatalities raised the death toll to 18,865 while 71,866,863 doses of vaccines have been administered so far.
PM2.5 particulates appear brown and hazy as it shrouds Bangkok’s high rises. Photos: NNT