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Coronavirus: The key element that has saved THOUSANDS of lives in Europe revealed

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has killed hundreds of thousands of people in Europe, but research from the Centre on Research on Energy and Clean Air has estimated 11,000 premature deaths were avoided in April from the top eight countries measured due to improvements in the continent’s air quality. The top eight countries for averted deaths were Germany (2,083), the UK (1,752), Italy (1,490), France (1,230), Spain (1,081), Poland (771), Portugal (609) and Romania (383). The study found the tiny particles in the air that reduce visibility and cause the air to appear hazy when levels are elevated – known as PM 2.5 levels – are down 10 percent on the same period as last year.

This has enabled hundreds of millions of people throughout Europe suffering with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, to breathe more easily.

Strict measures from dozens of countries have seen the average level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution plunge by 40 percent and 10 percent reduction in the average level of particulate matter pollution in the 30-day period, resulting in 11,000 avoided deaths from air pollution.

This has come as power generation from coal fell 37 percent and oil consumption by an estimated third.

The countries with the largest reductions in NO2 pollution levels are Portugal, Spain, Norway, Croatia, France, Italy and Finland.

The largest reductions in particulate matter pollution took place in Portugal, Greece, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Finland and Spain.

Coal power plants in the UK generated almost no power during most of April. Portugal had gone coal-free for more than a month, while Austria and Sweden recently closed their last coal power plants.

The research explained: “The new analysis uses detailed air quality statistical modelling to isolate the effects of weather conditions and changes in emissions, showing larger reductions in particulate matter levels than reported previously, and attributing the changes more robustly to the interventions against the virus.”

There are also a number of other avoided health impacts, such as 1.3 million fewer days of work absence, 6,000 fewer cases of asthma in children, 1,900 avoided emergency room visits due to asthma attacks and 600 fewer preterm births.

These health impacts are predominantly linked to widespread air pollution exposure.

The Centre on Research on Energy and Clean Air warned the decline in air pollution levels should not be seen as a “silver lining” but rather how the European lockdown illustrates the huge benefits of shifting more towards cleaner energy.

The body urged policy makers to take note and further implement policies to avoid a return to heavy pollution.

The report said: “The COVID-19 crisis is resulting in widespread human suffering across Europe.

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“Air pollution levels are plummeting as an unintended result of measures against the virus.

“This should not be seen as a ‘silver lining’, but it does show how normalised the massive death toll from air pollution has become, and points to what can be achieved if we shift to clean energy.

“When restrictions are fully lifted, European decision-makers can continue to implement policies to green electricity grids and transport systems in order to clear up our skies so we don’t return to heavy pollution.”

The release of this research comes with Germany being accused of triggering “the beginning of the end” for the European Union after the country’s top court questioned the legality of the European Central Bank’s vast asset-purchasing programme.

The constitutional court ordered the government and parliament to carry out a “proportionality assessment” of the ECB’s €2.2 trillion government bond purchasing scheme.

It even threatened to block the Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, from participating in future asset purchases if the ECB failed to make changes within a three-month transitional period.

Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt launched a scathing attack against the ruling by the court, questioning its right to challenge the independence of the ECB.

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