Growing levels of air pollution are about to add to the dramatic spike in coronavirus cases, warned Healthcare Minister Venko Filipce. Macedonian cities, where most of the households use wood and coal for heating, suffer from chronic levels of air pollution each winter, and Filipce said that the PM10 particles that fill the air will enhance the aerial transmission of the virus.

There are studies that show greater transmission of the virus with higher levels of PM10 particles. That is why we recommended that citizens wear masks in the open, Filipce said. The law mandating masks even when walking alone, in the open air, was adopted by the Parliament yesterday evening.

Meanwhile, Environment Minister Naser Nuredini tried to absolve the Government of any responsibility, even though the ruling SDSM party was promising to quickly resolve the air pollution problem when it was seeking votes in 2015 and 2016. Nuredini insisted that the citizens are to blame: “People are turning on the heating, not only in their homes but elsewhere too, and we have the issue of air pressure. So one of the reasons is the heating in our homes. The other issue is industrial activity which should be and maybe will be controlled more strictly in the future”, Nuredini said, offering little hope of action any time soon.

It’s estimated that 3,000 people die just of air pollution caused illnesses a year and that it could increase Covid-19 deaths by 15 percent.