As people across the globe stay home to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, the air has cleaned up, albeit temporarily. Smog stopped choking New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world, and India's getting views of sights not visible in decades. Nitrogen dioxide pollution in the n ortheastern United States is down 30%. Rome air pollution levels from mid-March to mid-April were down 49% from a year ago. Stars seems more visible at night.
People are also noticing animals in places and at times they don't usually. Coyotes have meandered along downtown Chicago's Michigan Avenue and near San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. A puma roamed the streets of Santiago, Chile. Goats took over a town in Wales. In India, already daring wildlife has become bolder with hungry monkeys entering homes and opening refrigerators to look for food.
When people stay home, Earth becomes cleaner and wilder.
"It is giving us this quite extraordinary insight into just how much of a mess we humans are making of our beautiful planet," says conservation scientist Stuart Pimm of Duke University. "This is giving us an opportunity to magically see how much better it can be."
Chris Field, director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, assembled scientists to assess the ecological changes happening with so much of humanity housebound. Scientists, stuck at home like the rest of us, say they are eager to explore unexpected changes in weeds, insects, weather patterns, noise and light pollution. Italy's government is working on an ocean expedition to explore sea changes from the lack of people.
"In many ways we kind of whacked the Earth system with a sledgehammer and now we see what Earth's response is," Field says.
Researchers are tracking dramatic drops in traditional air pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide, smog and tiny particles. These types of pollution kill up to 7 million people a year worldwide, according to Health Effects Institute president Dan Greenbaum.
The air from Boston to Washington is its cleanest since a NASA satellite started measuring nitrogen dioxide,in 2005, says NASA atmospheric scientist Barry Lefer. Largely caused by burning of fossil fuels, this pollution is short-lived, so the air gets cleaner quickly.
Compared to the previous five years, March air pollution is down 46% in Paris, 35% in Bengaluru, India, 38% in Sydney, 29% in Los Angeles, 26% in Rio de Janeiro and 9% in Durban, South Africa, NASA measurements show.
"We're getting a glimpse of what might happen if we start switching to non-polluting cars," Lefer says.
Cleaner air has been most noticeable in India and China. On April 3, residents of Jalandhar, a city in north India's Punjab, woke up to a view not seen for decades: snow-capped Himalayan peaks more than 100 miles away.
Cleaner air means stronger lungs for asthmatics, especially children, says Dr. Mary Prunicki, director of air pollution and health research at the Stanford University School of Medicine. And she notes early studies also link coronavirus severity to people with bad lungs and those in more polluted areas, though it's too early to tell which factor is stronger.
The greenhouse gases that trap heat and cause climate change stay in the atmosphere for 100 years or more, so the pandemic shutdown is unlikely to affect global warming, says Breakthrough Institute climate scientist Zeke Hausfather. Carbon dioxide levels are still rising, but not as fast as last year.
Aerosol pollution, which doesn't stay airborne long, is also dropping. But aerosols cool the planet so NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt is investigating whether their falling levels may be warming local temperatures for now.
Stanford's Field says he's most intrigued by increased urban sightings of coyotes, pumas and other wildlife that are becoming video social media staples. Boar-like javelinas congregated outside of a Arizona shopping center. Even New York City birds seem hungrier and bolder.
In Adelaide, Australia, police shared a video of a kangaroo hoping around a mostly empty downtown, and a pack of jackals occupied an urban park in Tel Aviv, Israel.
We're not being invaded. The wildlife has always been there, but many animals are shy, Duke's Pimm says. They come out when humans stay home.
For sea turtles across the globe, humans have made it difficult to nest on sandy beaches. The turtles need to be undisturbed and emerging hatchlings get confused by beachfront lights, says David Godfrey, executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy.
But with lights and people away, this year's sea turtle nesting so far seems much better from India to Costa Rica to Florida, Godfrey says.
"There's some silver lining for wildlife in what otherwise is a fairly catastrophic time for humans," he says.
For those who often feel anxious and stressed during long sea voyages, probiotics may provide a solution.
Chinese researchers have found that probiotics can ease sailors' pressure and anxiety by improving their intestinal health, according to a recent research article published in the journal Gut Microbes.
Sailors' immunity can decline when they remain in an environment marked by high salinity and strong ultraviolet radiation, said professor Zhang Heping from the Inner Mongolia Agricultural University. Thus their physiological and psychological health will likely be threatened.
The microbial community of the human gut is the foundation for a normal immune system.
The researchers from the university studied the effects of probiotics on the regulation of sailors' intestinal flora and disclosed the possible mechanism of making them more adaptive to the offshore environment.
Compared with the placebo control group, the probiotic group showed a balanced intestinal microbiome, according to the research article.
The research is expected to provide a feasible approach for protecting gut health during long sea voyages.
Covid-19 patients who are getting an experimental drug called remdesivir have been recovering quickly, with most going home in days, STAT News reported Thursday after it obtained a video of a conversation about the trial, reports CNN.
The patients taking part in a clinical trial of the drug have all had severe respiratory symptoms and fever, but were able to leave the hospital after less than a week of treatment, STAT quoted the doctor leading the trial as saying.
"The best news is that most of our patients have already been discharged, which is great. We've only had two patients perish," Dr. Kathleen Mullane, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Chicago who is leading the clinical trial, said in the video.
Mullane did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN.
The University of Chicago said Mullane's comments constituted partial information.
"Partial data from an ongoing clinical trial is by definition incomplete and should never be used to draw conclusions about the safety or efficacy of a potential treatment that is under investigation," it said in a statement.
"In this case, information from an internal forum for research colleagues concerning work in progress was released without authorization. Drawing any conclusions at this point is premature and scientifically unsound."
There is no approved therapy for the Covid-19, which can cause severe pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome in some patients. But the National Institutes of Health is organizing trials of several drugs and other treatments, among them remdesivir.
The drug, made by Gilead Sciences, was tested against Ebola with little success, but multiple studies in animals showed the drug could both prevent and treat coronaviruses related to Covid-19, including SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).
Back in February, the World Health Organization said remdesivir showed potential against Covid-19.
STAT said it obtained and viewed a copy of the video discussion Mullane had last week with colleagues about the trial.
"Most of our patients are severe and most of them are leaving at six days, so that tells us duration of therapy doesn't have to be 10 days," she was quoted as saying.
However, the trial does not include what's known as a control group, so it will be difficult to say whether the drug is truly helping patients recover better. With a control arm, some patients do not receive the drug being tested so that doctors can determine whether it's the drug that is really affecting their condition.
Trials of the drug are ongoing at dozens of other clinical centers, as well. Gilead is sponsoring tests of the drug in 2,400 patients with severe Covid-19 symptoms in 152 trial sites around the world. It's also testing the drug in 1,600 patients with moderate symptoms at 169 hospitals and clinics around the world.
Gilead said it expected results from the trial by the end of the month.
"We understand the urgent need for a COVID-19 treatment and the resulting interest in data on our investigational antiviral drug remdesivir," the company said in a statement to CNN. But it said a few stories about patients are just that -- stories.
"The totality of the data need to be analyzed in order to draw any conclusions from the trial. Anecdotal reports, while encouraging, do not provide the statistical power necessary to determine the safety and efficacy profile of remdesivir as a treatment for Covid-19," Gilead said.
Pahela Baishakh, the first day of the Bangla new year, is synonymous with colour and jubilant celebrations involving the whole nation.
But this year, the streets and parks that remain overcrowded fell silent as the government called off all programmes to avoid mass gatherings as a precautionary measure to prevent the transmission of coronavirus.
The eerie silence reminds everyone of the country’s arduous fight against the virus that has infected more than 1,000 people and killed 46 in Bangladesh till date.
The people are optimistic about celebrating the next Pahela Baishakh with colourful programmes.
Below are some pictures taken by an UNB photographer of places that draw huge crowds during Pahela Baishakh. It is a stark contrast to the usual celebrations.
Teacher-Student Centre area of the Dhaka University, which remains filled with people celebrating Pahela Baishakh, is empty this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The photo was taken on April 14.
Dhaka’s Shahbagh area witnesses large crowds and colourful processions every year during Pahela Baishakh celebrations but this year, it is eerily empty. The photo was taken on April 14.
There’s no one at Ramna area of Dhaka, a popular visiting spot for people celebrating Pahela Baishakh, as the government cancelled all celebrations to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The photo was taken on April 14
China has approved two COVID-19 inactivated vaccine candidates for clinical trials, according to the State Council joint prevention and control mechanism against the coronavirus Tuesday.
The two vaccine candidates are developed by Wuhan Institute of Biological Products under the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and Sinovac Research and Development Co., Ltd, a company based in Beijing. Clinical trials of the two vaccines have started.