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Photos from space show how Venice's canals have transformed during pandemic

Incredible satellite images of one of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations show how drastically it has changed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Venice, a haven for visitors in northern Italy that uses canals instead of roads, has become a shell of itself as tourists fled when the virus spread through the nation.

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The capital of Italy’s Veneto region, which has recorded more than 14,000 coronavirus cases, now has empty piazzas, shuttered basilicas and gondoliers idling their days away.

The European Space Agency has released two satellite images of the canals, one from April 2019 and another from April 13 this year.

It shows swarms of boats in the canals last year but the water city is completely deserted in the image from just four days ago.

“Italy’s efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus disease has led to a decrease of boat traffic in Venice’s famous waterways – as captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission,” the space agency said alongside the images.

Venice canals are deserted due to the coronavirus lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, on April 16, 2020 in Venice, Italy.
Venice's canals are all but deserted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Source: Getty

“The Italian government imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 9, drastically reducing the movement of Venice’s boats including the ‘vaporetti’, or water buses, as well as cruise ships.”

Italian news agency ANSA reported Venice was almost empty over Easter with police officers the only sign of life in the streets and canals.

Air quality improves across the world

Air quality is improving in countries under coronavirus quarantines, experts say, but it is far too early to speak of long-term change.

In February, the concentration of nitrogen dioxide – mainly produced by vehicles, industrial sites and thermal power stations – fell dramatically in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus is believed to have originated.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) reported a similar change in Barcelona and Madrid, where Spanish authorities issued confinement orders in mid March.

In northern Italy, "average NO2 concentration levels have been almost halved on average", Vincent-Henri Peuch, from the EU earth surveillance programme Copernicus, said.

It's not just air quality that has been improving. Clearer waters in Venice canals have attracted swans, fish and even dolphins.

According to the ABC, even the peaks of the Himalayas can now be seen from Punjab in India due to a decrease in pollution, the first time it has been possible in decades.

With AP and AFP

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