Reddit | poinc

Air Pollution Drops In Northern Italy Following Total Coronavirus Lockdown

As COVID-19 has, of the time of this writing, now seen at least 182,956 people infected globally and caused 7,415 known deaths, it's no surprise that people throughout the world are treating it as the serious threat that it is.

This is particularly true in Italy, where the virus has gained a great deal of ground in a short time as 27,980 of the cases and 2,158 of the deaths outlined above have taken place there.

But while coronavirus has clearly had severe effects on both the public health and economies of nations throughout the world, not all of its consequences have been so predictable or so disheartening.

As we're about to see, a country that locks down to prevent the spread of the virus may not just be helping its population, but also the environment.

At first, only northern Italy was subject to travel restrictions and other lockdown-like measures.

Reddit | poinc

As CNN reported, this was because the epicenter for the disease in Italy was the Lombardy region, which shares a border with Switzerland.

As the crisis grew out of control, however, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte extended this lockdown to the country at large on March 9.

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For one thing, this meant that nobody in the nation could attend school in person.

It also meant that all theaters, restaurants, bars and nightclubs would close.

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This further extended to a general ban on all public events as long as the COVID-19 threat remains present.

So what you see here is essentially what it's meant to be an Italian citizen since this lockdown began.

While all of this has unfolded, the Copernicus Sentinel-5P has been measuring air pollution throughout the world.

European Space Agency

This image released by the European Space Agency was taken on New Year's Day 2020 and shows the most dense concentration of air pollutants, particularly nitrogen dioxide, in Europe around the Northern Italian area that first went into mass quarantine.

By March 11, however, the difference in air pollution levels over that region was already stark.

European Space Agency

The satellite's mission manager, Claus Zehner, said this area has seen a general decline in air pollutants, but a more specific decline in nitrogen dioxide.

Even with all variables taken into account, it seems the difference is very real.

Twitter | @SanGasso

As Zehner said, "Although there could be slight variations in the data due to cloud cover and changing weather, we are very confident that the reduction in emissions that we can see, coincides with the lockdown in Italy causing less traffic and industrial activities."

Northern Italy isn't the only area to have seen improvements in air quality following a coronavirus lockdown.

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According to Scientific American, lockdown efforts in China, which has been the nation hit the most dramatically by COVID-19, have led to a 25% decrease in carbon emissions there.

So it seems that no matter what happens, what we've been doing hasn't been a total waste.

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As confining as it may feel to stay home all the time now, it at least seems to be helping more than we expected.

h/t: European Space Agency