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COVID-19 Lockdown Is Saving Lives, But Not In The Way You Think

COVID-19 Lockdown Is Saving Lives, But Not In The Way You Think

Tasneem Nazari

As of Thursday, 12th March 2020, Malaysia has 149 confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases.

Of these cases, 26 have recovered and returned home, while the rest are still receiving treatment at their respective hospitals. Fortunately, Malaysia has not recorded any deaths from the virus so far.

Across the globe, the numbers aren’t as promising. The worldwide COVID-19 count is 121,564 confirmed cases and 4,373 deaths. The World Health Organisation has also officially declared the situation a pandemic.

Hide yo kids, hide yo wife

Bird’s eye view of the sacred Kaaba in Mecca’s Grand Mosque completely empty of worshippers. (Credit: Forbes)

In an effort to contain and control the spread of infection, several nations have taken action in the form of a country-wide lockdown as seen in China, Italy, and most recently Denmark and Lebanon.

United States President Donald Trump has imposed a travel ban from European countries, the American National Basketball Association has suspended its season, health officials are encouraging people to avoid travelling anywhere and tourist spots are being closed and disinfected as authorities urge people to stay home.

This has resulted in people sharing eerie images of the most famous sites in the world completely deserted.

Blue skies in China

Pollution in Wuhan before and after quarantines. (Credit: NASA)

Interestingly, all this reduced travel has actually slashed rates of carbon emissions, including the volume of greenhouse gases that are causing the climate crisis.

China alone has been seeing clearer and brighter skies instead of the typical hazy, smog-filled atmosphere since the outbreak.

Automobile use, manufacturing and industrial production have dipped, causing fewer emissions.

Concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant released when fossil fuels are burned, have decreased some 40% in China.

More lives saved than those lost

In fact, scientists believe that the number of lives saved by the reduced pollution could end up being higher than the number of lives predicted to be lost because of the virus.

WHO estimates that around 7 million people across the globe die each year from pollution. In contrast, the projected death toll for COVID-19 pales in comparison.

Credible estimates by some experts have placed the number of deaths to COVID-19 at just over 1 million – total, not annual – based on a comparison of this pandemic with the 1957 flu outbreak.

This whole thing poses the question: why are we so much more afraid of COVID-19 than we are of the climate crisis, or other health threats that kill more people annually such as heart disease and diabetes?


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