Short-term health effects of air quality changes during the COVID‑19 pandemic in the City of Novi Sad, the Republic of Serbia
Natasa Dragic 1, 2  
,   Sanja Bijelovic 1, 2,   Marija Jevtic 1, 2, 3,   Radmila Velicki 1, 2,   Ivana Radic 1, 2
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University of Novi Sad, Novi Sad, the Republic of Serbia (Faculty of Medicine)
Institute of Public Health of Vojvodina, Novi Sad, the Republic of Serbia
Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium (School of Public Health, Research Center on Environmental Health and Occupational Health)
Natasa Dragic   

University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Medicine, Hajduk Veljkova 3, 21000 Novi Sad, the Republic of Serbia
Online publication date: 2021-03-25
Objectives: The objective of this research is to determine the change in outdoor air quality during the COVID‑19 related state of emergency resulting in a lockdown and the potential health benefits for the urban population. Material and Methods: During 53 days of the COVID‑19 related state of emergency with a lockdown (March 15–May 6, 2020) in the Republic of Serbia, as well as in the corresponding periods of 2018 and 2019, data on the daily sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ground-level ozone (O3) and particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) concentrations were analyzed. The total mortality data were analyzed to estimate the impact of the COVID‑19 related lockdown measures on the burden of health in a given population, attributed to the outdoor air quality in the City of Novi Sad, using AirQ+ software. Results: The average daily concentrations of PM2.5, NO2, PM10 and SO2 were reduced by 35%, 34%, 23% and 18%, respectively. In contrast, the average daily concentration of O3 increased by 8%, even if the primary precursors were reducing, thus representing a challenge for air quality management. In the City of Novi Sad, a reduction in the average daily PM2.5 concentration of 11.23 μg/m³ was significant, which resulted in a quantified number of avoided deaths. Conclusions: Air pollution in the City of Novi Sad had a chance to be improved due to some preventive measures related to the infectious disease (the COVID‑19 related lockdown), which in turn was the mitigation measure to air pollution with positive public health effects. The confirmed positive effects of the improved air quality on public health could also include raising collective resistance to mass non-communicable and infectious diseases such as COVID‑19 and reducing economic costs.