Rezwanul Hasan Rana1, Syed Afroz Keramat1, Jeff Gow This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.1,2 

1 School of Commerce, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
2 School of Accounting, Economics and Finance, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Received: November 9, 2020
Revised: March 24, 2021
Accepted: April 4, 2021

 Copyright The Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are cited.

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Cite this article:

Rana, R.H., Keramat, S.A., Gow, J. (2021). A Systematic Literature Review of the Impact of COVID-19 Lockdowns on Air Quality in China. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 21, 200614.


  • A systematic review of the COVID-19 lockdowns and air quality was conducted.
  • Restricting human activities had an immediate impact on air pollution.
  • Urban, industrial, and inland areas experienced larger drop in pollutants.
  • Pollutants (NO2) arising from the road traffic movement reduced the most.
  • Reported drop in air pollution varied significantly based on the time compared.


This literature review systematically examines the effect of COVID-19 lockdowns on pollutant concentrations in China by synthesising the reported evidence. Following PRISMA guidelines, we used predefined eligibility criteria to search the databases of PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science and EBSCO Host for peer-reviewed published literature that investigated the nexus between COVID-19 and air quality in China. After screening the titles, abstracts and full texts of the retrieved results, two reviewers independently evaluated the relevant data. 35 of 508 studies met our criteria. The majority of the eligible studies reported data from central China (e.g., Wuhan and Hubei Province), and the most frequently measured air pollutant was nitrogen dioxide (NO2; 51 values in 28 studies), followed by fine particulate matter (PM2.5; 49 values in 26 studies). We found evidence of a substantial reduction in air pollution immediately after lockdown measures were implemented, with traffic-related NO2 exhibiting the largest decrease. The reported reductions in air pollution varied by region and period. Specifically, urban, industrial and highly populated areas of China experienced greater improvements in air quality than rural, residential and less populated areas. Additionally, owing to meteorological factors, the effects differed between inland and coastal regions. However, despite the changes, the pollutant concentrations in many regions (e.g., Beijing, where PM2.5 and PM10 levels remained above 100 µg m−3) still exceeded the World Health Organization (WHO)’s 24-hour mean guidelines (e.g., 25 µg m−3 and 50 µg m−3 for PM2.5 and PM10, respectively). Without the support of adaptive environmental strategies, the recent gains in air quality will be unsustainable.

Keywords: Air pollution, Air contamination, Atmospheric environment, Coronavirus, 2019-nCov

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