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Outdoor PM2.5 concentration and rate of change in COVID-19 infection in provincial capital cities in China.

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Han, Yang 
Lam, Jacqueline CK 
Li, Victor OK 
Crowcroft, Jonathon  ORCID logo
Fu, Jinqi 


This study investigates thoroughly whether acute exposure to outdoor PM2.5 concentration, P, modifies the rate of change in the daily number of COVID-19 infections (R) across 18 high infection provincial capitals in China, including Wuhan. A best-fit multiple linear regression model was constructed to model the relationship between P and R, from 1 January to 20 March 2020, after accounting for meteorology, net move-in mobility (NM), time trend (T), co-morbidity (CM), and the time-lag effects. Regression analysis shows that P (β = 0.4309, p < 0.001) is the most significant determinant of R. In addition, T (β = -0.3870, p < 0.001), absolute humidity (AH) (β = 0.2476, p = 0.002), P × AH (β = -0.2237, p < 0.001), and NM (β = 0.1383, p = 0.003) are more significant determinants of R, as compared to GDP per capita (β = 0.1115, p = 0.015) and CM (Asthma) (β = 0.1273, p = 0.005). A matching technique was adopted to demonstrate a possible causal relationship between P and R across 18 provincial capital cities. A 10 µg/m3 increase in P gives a 1.5% increase in R (p < 0.001). Interaction analysis also reveals that P × AH and R are negatively correlated (β = -0.2237, p < 0.001). Given that P exacerbates R, we recommend the installation of air purifiers and improved air ventilation to reduce the effect of P on R. Given the increasing observation that COVID-19 is airborne, measures that reduce P, plus mandatory masking that reduces the risks of COVID-19 associated with viral-particulate transmission, are strongly recommended. Our study is distinguished by the focus on the rate of change instead of the individual cases of COVID-19 when modelling the statistical relationship between R and P in China; causal instead of correlation analysis via the matching analysis, while taking into account the key confounders, and the individual plus the interaction effects of P and AH on R.



Air Pollutants, COVID-19, China, Cities, Humans, Incidence, Particulate Matter, Risk Assessment, SARS-CoV-2

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Research Grants Council, University Grants Committee (T41-709/17-N)