When the Coronavirus Reduces Pollution

Closure of shops, schools, confinement of the population, etc. The measures taken in Italy are drastic. To the point that the effects can be seen from the atmosphere: greenhouse gas emissions have dropped since the start of the quarantine. This is an unexpected positive effect of this otherwise malevolent disease.

Recent data from the European Space Agency‘s Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission reveals a decline in air pollution, particularly nitrogen dioxide emissions, over Italy, according to a recent press release. A reduction particularly visible in the north of the country, which coincides, according to the European Space Agency, with its national quarantine to prevent the spread of the coronavirus epidemic. The director of the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission at ESA is very confident that the reduction of emissions that we they see coincides with the foreclosure in Italy, resulting in less traffic and less industrial activity.

In Italy as in China, CO2 pollution has temporarily succumbed to the virus. The mission analyzed emissions of nitrogen dioxide in Europe between January 1 and March 11. Claus Zehner said the data reveals that the decline in nitrogen dioxide emissions in the Po Valley in northern Italy is particularly evident. However, this is the industrial and economic heart of the country, which has been stopped since the quarantine of the country. The same phenomenon occurred in China following the containment measures imposed by the authorities. Last month, the specialized site Carbon Brief had noted a drop in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 100 million tonnes compared to last year.

Now France and Italy are two neighbors observing each other closely. Number of people infected, number of deaths, since the start of the coronavirus epidemic in Europe, France and Italy have compared each other. If the first cases of infected people were first detected in France in late January 2020, the explosion of contaminations finally took place on the other side of the Alps, in mid-February. But when we look at these figures more closely, we now notice a striking resemblance: the evolution of the number of cases of contamination with coronavirus in France follows that of Italy with eight days of delay. Should we fear an acceleration of the epidemic in a week in France?

So, is France really going to follow Italy? Will the number of cases exceed 27,000 in eight days, as is the case, Monday, March 16, with their transalpine neighbor? Not necessarily, according to specialists in epidemic modeling. According to them, the curve of French cases will increase, but not necessarily follow the evolution of the Italian curve. But only on one condition: to take effective barrier measures such as quarantine, as this is what France has implemented over the weekend.

ON Thursday March 12, French president Emmanuel Macron recalled the importance of these preventive measures. New restrictions have been put in place, such as the closure of day nurseries, schools and universities. With all this, they will save time before having a strong take-off of the curve, estimates mathematicians of the CNRS. And this one will go up lower.

And that is something that is extremely important. Because whether or not the maximum height will clog the health services. The braking strategy could therefore bear fruit. Henceforth preparations must be implemented quickly, including the manufacturing of masks and breathing ventilators, the disposal of used medical supplies via roll-off dumpsters, and the deployment of temporary health workers.

But not all doctors are convinced of this. Some fear an Italian scenario, that the health system will be completely overwhelmed by the influx of patients, according to doctors at the infectious diseases department of Pitié-Salpêtrière, in Paris. According to them and other health professionals, hospitals and intensive care units will have to deal with an explosion in the number of cases to be treated. A possibility that the government is trying to prevent by postponing all non-emergency operations in hospitals.


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