Cleaner hands, bluer skies: What has coronavirus done for us?

Deaths, economic meltdown and a planet on lockdown, the coronavirus pandemic has brought us waves of bad news, but squint and you might just see a few bright spots.

From better hygiene that has reduced other infectious diseases to people reaching out as they self-isolate, here are some slivers of silver linings during a bleak moment.

Alight

Formerly the American Refugee Committee, Alight is supporting local operations in nine countries where they have had an ongoing, long-term presence. Efforts include increasing access to WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities in refugee settlements and supplying protective equipment for medical staff.

 

(Photograph:Reuters)

Carbon curbs

Factory shutdowns travel bans and a squeeze on demand spell economic disaster, but it isn't all bad news for the environment.

In the four weeks to March 1, China's CO2 emissions fell 200 million tonnes, or 25 per cent, compared to the same period last year, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

That's a decline equivalent to annual CO2 emissions from Argentina, Egypt or Vietnam.
 

(Photograph:Reuters)

Halt on air travel

Air travel is also grinding to a virtual halt, achieving at least a short-term drop-off in emissions from a highly polluting industry.

And there have been other environmental benefits, including crystal-clear waters in Venice canals usually choked with tourist-laden boats.

Unfortunately, experts say the cleaner air may be short-lived. 

Once the health crisis is over, experts expect countries will double down to try to make up for lost time, with climate change concerns likely to be sidelined in a race to recover economic growth.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Save the pangolins

The source of the coronavirus remains in question, but early tracking focused on a market in China's Wuhan where a variety of live wildlife was on sale for consumption.

A number of animals, including bats and the highly endangered pangolin, have been identified as possible culprits for the virus.

As a result, China in February declared an immediate and "comprehensive" ban on the trade and consumption of wild animals that was welcomed by environmentalists.

Beijing implemented similar measures following the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s, but the trade and consumption of wild animals, including bats and snakes, made a comeback.

This time the ban is permanent, raising hopes that it could end the local trade in wildlife.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Apart, but together!

One of the most difficult aspects of the stringent lockdowns imposed to slow the spread of the virus has been loneliness, with families and friends forced to endure weeks or even months apart.

But some people have found the measures are creating a sense of community spirit, and prompting them to make more of an effort to check in with family and reconnect with friends.

(Photograph:Reuters)

'Called my parents more often'

In Colombia, where a nearly three-week period of self-isolation is now in place, 43-year-old Andrea Uribe has organised everything from group exercise classes to family talent shows using video messaging programmes including Zoom.

"I have called my parents more often, I have talked to friends that I usually don't talk to... I have organised Zoom meetings with friends in multiple countries," Uribe, who works in development, told AFP.

"It is wonderful to be forced to be there for one another. It has made me more creative. It just shows that we need to be present in people's lives."

(Photograph:AFP)