The coronavirus pandemic caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is having a huge impact worldwide in many aspects. With social distancing and mandatory self- quarantines in order avoid the spread of the disease and, consequently, relieve the burden of the health care system to save lives, the population has been falsely convinced that there have been environmental benefits with decreased environmental pollution. In fact, in very industrialized countries and cities, clear skies and more wildlife roaming the streets and in rivers have been spotted, as the pandemic has led to decreased in car and flight transit, as well as the shutdown of industries and commerce, forcing people to stay at home (National Geographic, 2020).
However, COVID-19, in reality, has been causing major drawbacks in terms of environmental protection policies around the globe. For example, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has stopped enforcements concerning monitoring and reporting requirements of environmental protection for an undefined period of time, China has temporarily suspended environmental regulations and Brazil has reduced surveillance on environmental compliance in the Amazon Rainforest (Forbes, 2020).
At the same time, the fear associated with COVID-19 transmission has resulted in increased use of single-use plastics, disinfecting products and related chemicals, therefore causing environmental water pollution concerns. Single-use plastics are now more popular than ever as, amid the COVID 19 fear, people will preferentially buy disposable items like water bottles, as well as other products in plastic containers and bags, such as hand sanitizers, sanitizing wipes, toilet papers, cleaning products and tissues, and food items.
The current situation has been even more aggravated since recycling companies and the plastic collection points of 100,000 retailers worldwide have ceased operations, not only due to health and safety concerns, but also for financial reasons, with the costs concerning gathering the waste and processing higher than simply producing more plastic (Haultail, 2020) . In addition, since 2018 China and other countries have stopped accepting tons of recyclable materials and waste from the U.S. for processing, which leads to major waste management issues in the country (Huffpost, 2020).
Governments worldwide have taken precautionary measurements to reduce COVID-19 infections. In Surabaya, Indonesia, one of the responses to the coronavirus pandemic was a drone dispersing clouds of disinfectant in the sky above the city (Wardoyo and Geddie, 2020). Although COVID-19 is a contagious respiratory disease that spreads through droplets from the nose or mouth via coughing or sneezing, this type of approach could be even more toxic to people, since disinfectants such as bleach and glutaraldehyde have been reported as leading to higher risks for the development of progressive lung diseases (Dumas et al., 2019; Svanes et al., 2018), and do not necessary improve virus containment.
Studies on COVID-19 transmission and mode of actions are still very incipient to draw any definitive conclusions, but reports have shown that older adults and people with severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from this disease (Onder et al., 2020; Zhou et al., 2020).
One of most recent explanations of the deadly effects of COVID-19 is associated to its immune system effects, in a phenomenon broadly known as “cytokine storm”, where the immune system releases a large number of cytokines, which end-up attacking the organs they were intended to protect (Shi et al., 2020). If not treated, the effects of this immune system overreaction can lead to fatal outcomes from complications such as multi-organ failure, lung inflammation, bacterial pneumonia, and respiratory distress.