Air pollution may lead to faster spread of the coronavirus infection, as it causes coughing and sneezing, government officials told a parliamentary committee on Friday, reported PTI.

“Higher air pollution may increase episodes of coughing and sneezing spreading Covid-19 faster,” the health ministry said in a presentation to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development. “More particle surface for the virus to stick to and get transported over greater distance and may potentially survive longer.”

Officials of the Union health ministry, environment ministry and the governments of Delhi, Haryana and Punjab gave their presentations to the committee. The agenda of the meeting was to deliberate upon “steps taken for prevention of air pollution special emphasis on finding permanent solution to air pollution in Delhi and National Capital Region”, reported PTI.

Officials of the Central Pollution Control Board and other related departments were also present.

Citing a study published in The Lancet Planetary Health, the health ministry said there is an average loss of 1.7 years of life expectancy in India due to air pollution. It also said that in Delhi there is 1.7 times higher risk of respiratory ailments and prevalence of breathing problems and that the city reports 10,000 to 30,000 deaths caused due to air pollution annually.

The environment ministry in its presentation said that in the four-year period between 2016 and 2019, Delhi witnessed just four days of “good” air quality, while the it was “very poor” on 319 days and “severe” on 78 days.

Last month, the Indian Council of Medical Research had also said, citing international studies, that air pollution levels can lead to rise in coronavirus mortality. The air quality index in the city remained in the “severe” category on Saturday, as multiple observation centres recorded the reading at above the 400-mark.