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Environmental Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 has affected many people across the world. So, many countries have implemented quarantine order to stop the spread of the disease.

Most people stay at home. Many public facilities and venues are closed too.

As many of human activities are put on hold, pollutant-generating activities such as motor vehicles and factories operations are also reduced. Do you think this has any effect to the environment?

First, the air quality in Malaysia has improved due to less air pollution from factories and transportation. Besides that, there are less open burning during this period too.

Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)

40% decrease

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)

61% decrease

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

31% decrease

Second, the water quality of rivers in Malaysia has also improved where *BOD and *COD value decreases. This indicates that there are less oxygen demand in the river to break down pollutants. Hence, more oxygen for aquatic organisms.


The amount of dissolved oxygen needed by aerobic microorganisms to break down organic material.


Measure of the amount of oxygen that can be consumed by reactions in a measured solution.

However, there are negative impacts of COVID-19 to the environment as well.

Since February 2020, clinical wastes produced such as face mask and gloves have increased to 17% compared to monthly average before this.

The masks are made up of plastic based materials that are liquid-resistant and are long lasting after they are discarded, ending up in ocean or landfill.

So, what should we do to reduce clinical waste?

First, it is enough to wear mask and wash your hand frequently. Hence, medical waste can be reduced by not using glove. Second, do not litter your mask. Throw the mask into the trash can immediately after use.

The improvement in air and water quality are the good impacts of this pandemic but this is temporary.

The challenge for us is to maintain the improvement of our environment after lockdown period is over.