How quarantine has affected the environment

Coronavirus Disease 2019 Rotator Graphic for (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Rosario “Charo” Gutierrez)

When COVID-19 emerged many cities and countries went into lockdown to “flatten the curve,” which means limiting the number of cases. Even if a place didn’t go into a full lockdown, many people started their own self-quarantine, where they tried to limit how often they left the house. And although the Coronavirus is a devastating disease that has torn through communities and will probably change the way we do things forever, people staying in quarantine has actually prompted great effects on our environment.
Since multiple cities went into lockdown, not only did COVID cases stay relatively flat but pollution also has significantly gone down practically everywhere. According to an online article, “Pollution made COVID-19 worse. Now, lockdowns are cleaning the air,” Beth Gardiner says in National Geographic. People in India have reported on seeing the Himalaya mountains for the first time because the air pollution dropped so dramatically that skies are clearer. Before the pandemic, there was a layer of smoke over many Chinese cities, and it was impossible to see the sky\; however, now that air pollution is down in many major cities, like Beijing, people have been seeing clear, blue skies.
The rise in air pollution was caused by the burning of fossil fuels and the nitrogen dioxide released when driving a car. But since cities have gone into lockdown, NO₂ emissions have gone down in heavily populated areas because people aren’t driving as often. Although economically, lessening the number of fossil fuels burned can be pretty bad, it seems to have a pretty positive effect on the environment. By NO₂ production being down, air pollution is less likely to rise. Without as much human presence because we’re all in quarantine, air pollution has cleared up, it’s not entirely gone, but has lowered a lot.
Lockdowns and quarantine haven’t only helped lower air pollution, it’s starting to clear up water in places like Venice, Italy. On March 9, the prime minister of Italy issued a national lockdown, and limited the movement of people, besides the essentials like getting necessities, work, or health-related things. Before lockdowns, the Venice canals were dark and murky because of the heavy traffic, but because the traffic has lessened, the water seems to have cleared up. However, water quality still isn’t great. There have been people posting online about how animals have started to swim in the canals, like dolphins, however, the picture of the dolphin is actually from Sardinia, which is hundreds of miles away. But, there have been reports of people seeing fish, crabs, and plant life within the canal. Although, the canals seem better because the sediments in them stay at the bottom, which before, were brought to the surface because of all the boats and people. However, air quality in Italy has improved because everyone was indoors. And although the water quality didn’t improve, the city can be seen as much more beautiful because of the clearer waters and the cleaner skies.
There have also been a lot of reports of animals roaming around town and parks due to the less number of people there, and here are just a few instances. In Barcelona, Spain, boars have been wandering around normally busy places. In Santiago, Chile, a wild puma was spotted and captured after being seen at the city center during a curfew. Even in North America, orcas have been spotted swimming in the Vancouver fjord. Orcas haven’t been spotted there for decades, but because of the lack of human activity, they decided to swim there. In Nara, Japan, deer that have normally been seen in parks, moved into the city in search of food. With the number of people limited in normally densely populated places, more wildlife has ventured into those places, all because we aren’t there.
Coronavirus is a terrible thing and has done a lot more bad than good. However, sometimes you need to look on the bright side. Ever since lockdowns and quarantines have been put into place, the environment has had many positive effects such as lowered air pollution, clearer water in Venice, Italy, and many animals adventuring into cities and towns.