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Italy’s Lockdown Leaves Venice’s Canals Cleaner Than Ever

Much of Italy has been a ghost town over the past weeks as the COVID-19 virus forced the country into full lockdown, and Venice is no exception. One of the positives of the pandemic (and they are few, so we aim to make the most of them should they arise), is that there has been a dramatic reduction in pollution in affected areas. Venice’s typically-bustling canals are now eerily quiet and… clean!

The waterways are usually murky due to the various boats, ships and gondolas that stir up sediment, but since the canals have been out of use, the water has had time to settle, and now offer a glimpse of the wildlife lurking in its depths, including schools of various fish. Wild swans have also taken full advantage of the quietude, and have been seen drifting along past deserted piazzas and desolate alleyways. Venetian locals have even taken to filming the newly-crystal waters, having never previously appreciated the extent of the fauna flourishing beneath the inky surface.

A swan preening in the canals of Venice

Further afield, Sardinian locals have had the treat of a few dolphin sightings along the coastal regions due to reduced sea traffic. The Sassari region has also had a few unusual visitors in the form of wild boars, who wander through the quiet streets while locals take shelter in their homes to avoid the spread of the virus.

The restrictions placed not only on canal traffic but transport and industry in general, have also caused a great reduction in air pollution. NO2 levels across northern Italy have dropped significantly over major cities, including Venice, Rome, Milan, Bologna and Turin. Locals have noticed the effects of the cleaner environment, and hope to find a better balance between industry and eco-awareness once the effects of the virus peter out.

Border closures have also reduced nitrogen oxide levels, as flights have been greatly reduced, with many airlines scrapping European flights altogether to prevent further global infection. Italian health workers have been taking measures to reduce local transmissions, including disinfecting streets, swimming pools, plazas, pavements, bridges and other public spaces. They have been commended by the local council, who described their actions as “exceptional.”

An unusually quite Venice canal and bridge, with clean flowing water

The COVID-19 lockdown is just one example of a major impact on Venice’s thriving tourism industry. 2019 saw a disastrous flood destroy many areas of the Floating City. Venice alone attracts many visitors from across the globe, including China, on an annual basis, and repeated threats to the major tourist trade could have severe and long-lasting repercussions on the Italian economy.

Meanwhile, Venetian authorities have ramped up the distribution of COVID-19 tests. Their hope is that through identifying and isolating virus-positive patients, they can improve control over the spread of the coronavirus. Luca Zaia, president of the Veneto region (which includes Venice), has also urged locals to remain indoors and avoid all unnecessary contact. Patients are encouraged to remain in self-isolation to avoid placing further strain on the already-struggling healthcare system. He went on to warn, “If you do not follow the rules, the healthcare system will crash and I will have to impose a curfew.”

Be sure to stay up to date with the latest information on the COVID-19 pandemic. You can view the World Health Organisation’s official coronavirus disease outbreak page here. Stay safe and be kind to one another!

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