COVID-19, City Lockdowns, and Air Pollution: Evidence from China

HKUST IEMS Thought Leadership Brief No. 41


Guojun He

The rapid spread of COVID-19 is a global public health challenge. To prevent the escalation of its transmission, China locked down one-third of its cities and strictly restricted personal mobility and economic activities. Using timely and comprehensive air quality data in China, we show that these counter-COVID-19 measures led to a remarkable improvement in air quality. Within weeks, the Air Quality Index and PM2.5 concentrations were brought down by 25%. The effects are larger in colder, richer, and more industrialized cities. We estimate that such improvement would avert 24,000 to 36,000 premature deaths from air pollution on a monthly basis.


About the author

Guojun He is an assistant professor appointed jointly at the Division of Social Science, Division of Environment and Sustainability, and Department of Economics at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He is also a faculty associate of HKUST IEMS. 

Email Subscription

Get updates from HKUST IEMS