Rezwanul Hasan Rana1, Syed Afroz Keramat2, Jeff Gow This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.3,4,5

1 School of Commerce, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia
2 School of Commerce, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia, QLD 4350, Australia
3 School of Commerce, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia
4 School of Accounting, Economics and Finance, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
5 Department of Agricultural Economics, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, 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.


  • 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 systematic literature review examines the effect of COVID-19 lockdowns on air quality in China. The aim was to synthesize evidence from the literature to assess whether lockdown measures had an impact on the concentration of pollutants. The databases of PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science and EBSCO Host using PRISMA guidelines were systematically searched. This study used pre-defined eligibility criteria to identify peer-reviewed published literature that investigated the COVID-19 and air quality nexus in China. The title, abstract, full texts were screened, and relevant data were retrieved by two reviewers independently screened. From 508 potential studies, a total of 35 studies met the eligibility criteria. In these studies, the most measured air pollutant was nitrogen dioxide (NO2) (51 values in 28 studies), followed by particulate matter (PM2.5) (49 values in 26 studies). A majority of the studies used data from Central China (e.g., Wuhan and Hubei province). Evidence of a substantial reduction in air pollution immediately after lockdowns was found. During lockdown, pollutant (NO2) arising from the road traffic movement reduced the most. The degree of alleviation in air pollution reported varied based on region and time period. Urban, industrial and densely populated areas of China experienced higher improvements in air quality than rural, residential and less populated areas. Due to meteorological factors, the impact of lockdown on air quality differed between inland and coastal regions. Despite the evidenced improvements, air quality in many regions in China (e.g., PM2.5 and PM10 > 100 µg/m3 in Beijing) were still below the World Health Organization guidelines (PM2.5 = 25 µg/m3 and PM10 = 50 µg/m3, 24 hour mean). Without appropriate adaptive environmental strategies, the recent improvements in air quality will not be sustainable. The findings indicate where and how air pollution responded to changes in mobility and economic activities in China during COVID-19 lockdowns.

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

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