Pandemic Aftermath: Worst Air Pollution and Extreme Traffic Congestion Expected After Lockdown as Private Cars Increase

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The coronavirus pandemic may still affect the world after its peak since it will create a new normal that people across the globe will have to adjust with. According to The Independent’s latest report, since commuters are swapping public transport for cars in fear of the coronavirus in public transportation, the worst air pollution and extreme traffic congestion should be expected once the lockdown is fully lifted. 

It was reported that the clean air in the United Kingdom is likely to deteriorate these coming weeks as the lockdown is lifted on Monday, June 15. It will also trigger a surge in road traffic. Restrictions enforced during the height of the coronavirus pandemic have been eased by many countries across the globe to revitalize economies. The number of road accidents will likely increase and air pollution levels are expected to climb as many workplaces and shops open for the first time on Monday, June 15. 

In China, for example, air pollution is now overtaking previous levels before the global pandemic occurred, as the travel industry resumed in the country. Meanwhile, car use in Stockholm, Sweden, is currently hitting levels higher than before the pandemic, just like in Wuhan, China. Authorities have warned people that a second wave of coronavirus infections will likely occur since people have begun crowding onto public transportation and visiting public spaces with little to no social distancing.  

The survey’s result showed that personal cars will be used even more even by those individuals who usually opt for public transportation. 

“The problem is going to be that all these forms of transportation are competing for the same amount of finite space,” said transit consultant and former New York City traffic commissioner, Sam Schwartz in the report of Business Insider.  “Even at 50 or 60 percent of a full reopening of a city… what we’re going to see is perhaps 100 percent or more of automobile traffic.”

Detroit Free Press conducted a global survey in 11 countries, involving more than 11,000 drivers. The survey’s results showed that overall increased interest in car ownership, including among younger buyers and even those who have never owned a car before, was caused by the global pandemic. 

On the other hand, a spike in traffic congestion may happen once the lockdowns are eased completely, as indicated in the study by academics at Vanderbilt University titled “The Rebound: How COVID-19 could lead to worse traffic.” “Cities that depend on transit are at risk for extreme traffic unless transit systems can resume safe, high throughput operations quickly,” according to the paper. 

The lockdowns imposed around the world in response to the coronavirus crisis have resulted in a dropped of global carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 17%. Daily CO2 emissions on April 7 dropped temporarily, at the peak of the lockdown, to levels last seen in 2006.   

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