More than 1,700 deaths in the UK have been spared as air quality has improved according to latest reports.

On March 16, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the public, where possible, to work from home and avoid non-essential travel.

And a week later, a full lockdown was enforced to further prevent the spread of Covid-19.

As a result, harmful levels of air pollution have dropped significantly.

A study by Finland-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) found that the concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – produced by road traffic and heavy industry – had dropped by 40 per cent across Europe as people followed Government advice to stay at home.

The study also found a 10 per cent reduction in the average level of particulate matter pollution across Europe in the last 30 days.

And the reduction of harmful emissions has meant that an estimated 1,752 air pollution related deaths in the UK have been avoided.

Across Europe, other reported health improvements included 6,000 fewer new cases of asthma in children, 1.3 million fewer days of work absences and 600 fewer premature births.

The study used detailed air quality statistical modelling to separate the effects of weather conditions and changes in emissions.

Researchers Lauri Myllyvirta and Hubert Thieriot said: “The Covid-19 crisis has brought about untold human suffering and its side-effects should not be celebrated.

“However, the major public health benefits over just one month are a striking demonstration of the benefit to public health and quality of life if European decision-makers prioritise clean air, clean energy and clean transport in their plans to recover from the crisis”.

Closer to home, the picture is similarly positive.

Analysis by the BBC Shared Data Unit has found a widespread drop in air pollution across the county.

And a Defra monitoring station, in Newcastle, is reporting a 50 per cent drop in its average nitrogen dioxide levels.

In Northumberland, the air is generally cleaner than in larger cities.

However, there is still expected to be a significant decrease in harmful emissions as journeys are fewer, with many business and schools closed.

The sudden decrease in dangerous pollutants, and in such a short space of time, has opened up questions for the future.

Environmentalists say that although climate change, net zero and air pollution will not be achieved over night, the pandemic has demonstrated that a change in behavioural patterns can lead to environmental improvements.

It has been suggested that people should only travel only if necessary, even once lockdown is lifted.

BBC Business editor Simon Jack said that because of the success of home-working, rush hour could be a thing of the past.

The rise of online meetings has shown that work can continue remotely, without the need for travel and has saved a lot of carbon in the process.

Meanwhile, BBC Science editor David Shukman said: “The pandemic has shown us how governments can act when they need to - and how willingly people can respond.

“The issue is whether a similar drive can be directed to what the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls ‘the deeper emergency’ of the environment.”

More sustainable travel options, such as cycling and walking, are likely to be explored.