Satellite images reveal the impact of the coronavirus on the Chinese economy

NEW DELHI: The impact on China's economy was clearly visible in NASA's space images in the air over China.

A set of images taken by NASA and European Space Agency (ESA), pollution monitoring satellites have indicated a significant decrease in NO2 levels, a harmful gas emitted by motor vehicles, power plants and industrial facilities, between January 1 and 20, 2020 (before the quarantine) and from February 10 to 25 (during quarantine)

Images from the NASA Earth Observatory by Joshua Stevens

So far, millions of people have been quarantined in several provinces of China, the largest exercise of its kind seen in human history, the NASA Earth Observatory reported.

The new coronavirus strains were first detected in Wuhan, the capital of the bustling Chinese province of, at the end of 2019. The rapid outbreak of the virus forced the Chinese government to isolate Wuhan, a city of 11 million people. January 23. At the end of February, the virus had claimed more than 2,800 lives and was detected on all continents, except in Antarctica. According to media reports, 16 cities have been blocked, affecting about 46 million people.

This is the first time I see such a dramatic fall in such a wide area for a specific event, said Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. A similar drop in NO2 levels was visible during the economic recession of 2008. However, it was more gradual.

The spread of the coronavirus coincides with the celebrations of the Lunar New Year in China. It is normal for factories and other industrial activities to close from the last week of January to the beginning of February to celebrate the festival.

In general, air pollution decreases during this period and then increases once the celebrations end.

NASA compared a set of three images: from January 1 to 20 (before the Lunar New Year), from January 28 to February 9 (around the New Year celebrations) and from February 10 to 25 (after event) from 2019 to 2020. The impact of the coronavirus on industrial activity is clearly visible when the 2019 satellite images were compared with 2020.

Images from the NASA Earth Observatory by Joshua Stevens

While in 2019, the period around the New Year celebrations reported a drop in pollution levels, it recovered after the event. However, this year, the fall in the level of pollution has been drastic and constant.

Media reports corroborated the facts stated in NASA's satellite images. The activity of factories in China contracted at the fastest pace in February, highlighting the damage of the outbreak in the second largest economy in the world.

The International Monetary Fund has revised its growth forecast for China, the world's second largest economy, from 6.0 percent to 5.6 percent. According to Moody's estimates, the Chinese economy will grow to 5.2%.

The impact of the coronavirus outbreak will not only be limited to China. Economists have predicted that global growth will fall to 2.4% this year, the slowest since the Great Recession in 2009, and below previous expectations closer to 3%. For the United States, estimates are falling as low as 1.7% this year, down from 2.3% in 2019.