Though positive news stories have largely been buried under an avalanche of statistics, news, and ongoing updates about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lately, they are still out there.
It might seem that, in general, cheerful stories have been few and far between of late, but even in the direst of circumstances, there is often a silver lining.
Here are some positive developments related to COVID-19 that might point towards a light at the end of the tunnel for all of the people in quarantine, confinement, and those infected by the coronavirus that has the majority of the world in lockdown.
1. On March 19, China reported zero new domestic cases of coronavirus infection
China yesterday reported no new cases of domestic coronavirus infections, for the first time since the beginning of the outbreak. The 34 infections diagnosed on Wednesday in China, and reported today, were in people that arrived in the country from abroad, the National Health Commission said.
GREAT news from China:— Jenny Jusuf (@JennyJusuf) March 19, 2020
Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus outbreak started, reports ZERO new infections for the first time!
This is a significant, positive development in the country, where citizens have been in lockdown since January 23rd. Hopefully, it is also a sign of things to come for the rest of the world.
2. In Venice, locals are reporting they can see fish in the canals for the first time in years
The water of the canals in Venice is clearer ever since the COVID-19 coronavirus has put a halt to tourism in the famous city. Over the past few years, the city has been struggling to deal with overcrowding and pollution caused largely by tourism.
This has resulted in the city's canals becoming murky due to pollution. Now, videos and images are emerging of the canals, showing that the water has become crystal clear.
The coronavirus pandemic has had an unexpected side effect in Venice—where the normally cloudy canals have transformed into water crystal clear enough to see fish swimming below. https://t.co/qrr8iphSPdpic.twitter.com/37H7iiB09Y— ABC News (@ABC) March 18, 2020
It's not just Venice that has seen big changes. In other parts of Italy, where drastic lockdown measures were put in place following a spike in COVID-19 cases, such as the port of Cagliari, a video has surfaced of dolphins. Swans have been filmed in the waters of Milan, and other wildlife have reportedly been spotted returning to areas that were previously uninhabitable.
✅ Acqua pulita a #Venezia con i pesci 🐠 che si tornano a vedere— Roberto Dupplicato (@duppli) March 16, 2020
✅ Un cigno 🦢 sul Naviglio a #Milano
✅ un delfino 🐬 nel porto di #Cagliari
Tornare a inquinare sarebbe un delitto: sfruttiamo questa scia per ripensare a come sviluppare la società in armonia con la natura pic.twitter.com/dH0PLqm4Q1
As one commenter on social media put it, perhaps "this isn't an apocalypse. It's an awakening."
3. Air pollution and global CO2 levels are going down dramatically
Air pollutants and warming gases over cities worldwide have gone down dramatically since the COVID-19 coronavirus started to impact work and travel.
As the BBC reports, researchers in New York say "early results show that carbon monoxide, mainly from cars, has been reduced by almost 50 percent compared with last year in the typically traffic-heavy city."
CO2 emissions have also dropped dramatically. Scientists predict that by May, when CO2 emissions are typically at their peak due to the decomposition of leaves, the levels recorded will be the lowest since the financial crisis over a decade ago.
As the image above from NASA also shows, levels of nitrous dioxide — a noxious polluting gas emitted by power plants, industrial facilities, and transport vehicles — has also fallen dramatically.
just wanted to show you guys a picture of my second home :) this is where everyone in my family before me grew up, and where i have spent countless childhood summers. i’ve never actually seen those mountains from there. this makes me so happy. pic.twitter.com/5fntvclpmV— ★·. olimpia .·★ (@hell0pia) March 18, 2020
As tweeter @hell0pia explains, you can even see the Tatra mountains from Kraków now due to the smog lifting in the city.
4. Vaccine trials are already underway
On March 16, the first human was injected with an "investigational" vaccine as part of the U.S.'s human trials for a coronavirus vaccine.
Though it is a promising step towards developing a vaccine for preventing infection from the COVID-19, public health officials still say it will take a year to a year and a half to fully test and develop any vaccine.
This is because it is important to rigorously test whether the vaccine might have any adverse side effects that could affect large parts of the global population.
Here's the 1st of 4 volunteers who this morning received an investigational vaccine for COVID-19 as part of a @kpwashington phase 1 clinical trial. Learn more here: https://t.co/gSJtLyOG2K Thanks to @NIH for making it possible. Credit: Ted S. Warren / AP Photos https://t.co/WiFc7WXlSfpic.twitter.com/IqovYszmYB— KP WA Research (@KPWaResearch) March 16, 2020
The first-ever injection of the investigational vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus happened in Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI), the institute reported in a statement.
5. The U.S. has signed a big relief package deal
Governments worldwide, including the U.S., are passing unprecedented laws to help citizens affected by the ongoing pandemic. In the United States, President Trump signed into law a bill that ensures paid leave benefits to many Americans. It is part of a wide-randing aid package that will help those struggling with the current situation.
As The Washington Post reports, the legislation also promises free coronavirus testing to anyone, including people who are uninsured. The bill also increases health funding across the U.S.
In the U.K., the government has announced a temporary complete ban on evictions, as well as additional protection for renters and homebuyers, including a 3-month pause on mortgage payments.
In Spain, meanwhile, a petition calling on the government to temporarily halt freelance social security payments — which go up to almost €300 monthly, and have to be paid regardless of income — has over 300,000 signatures.
6. Some drugs are already showing promise as a cure
Medical authorities in China have claimed that a drug, called favipiravir, which was developed in Japan to treat new strains of influenza appears to be an effective form of treatment for coronavirus patients.
The news comes after clinical trials, involving 340 patients, in Wuhan and Shenzhen, The Guardian reports.
“It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment,” Zhang Xinmin, an official at China’s science and technology ministry, told reporters this week.
🚨BREAKING: #China says a flu drug approved in #Japan was effective in a study of 340 #coronavirus patients.— Dr. Dena Grayson (@DrDenaGrayson) March 18, 2020
Lung X-rays showed improvements in ~91% of patients treated with #favipiravir, compared to 62% of those not treated with drug.@thespybriefhttps://t.co/Ounni6NTsm
Patients who were given the medicine turned negative for the virus after a media of four days after becoming positive. That's compared with the median of 11 days for those not treated with the drugs, according to public broadcaster NHK.
What's more, X-rays taken of the patients confirmed improvements in lung condition in about 91% of the patients treated with favipiravir, compared to 62% in those that didn't take the drug. However, researchers do warn that the drug doesn't seem to be as effective in cases that are already severe.
In Australia, researchers are starting clinical trials for what they claim could be a cure for COVID-19. The scientists at the University of Queensland say that Chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, and HIV-suppressing combination lopinavir/ritonavir have both shown promising results in human tests where the virus 'disappeared' in infected patients.
7. It's bringing out the best in people
In difficult moments people come together, help each other out, and show a sense of solidarity that is often missing in calmer times — despite some ugly, unwanted scenes related to supermarket stockpiling, this has overwhelmingly been the case in people's reactions to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
People of my hometown #Siena sing a popular song from their houses along an empty street to warm their hearts during the Italian #Covid_19#lockdown.#coronavirusitalia#COVID19#coronaviruspic.twitter.com/7EKKMIdXov— valemercurii 🌍 (@valemercurii) March 12, 2020
In Spain, citizens started a tradition of clapping from their balconies for the nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers working hard to fight to help those who are ill.
This is Spain. At 22.00h, citizens went to their balconies to give an applause to all professionals who are working extra hard these days to keep everyone safe & well, from health workers to cashiers & truck drivers. What a beautiful country we are when we stand together 🇪🇦❤️ https://t.co/gkamc4NqIG— Berta Herrero (@Be_Herrero) March 14, 2020
Examples of communities coming together to help each other out — while keeping a safe distance — have been spreading through social media; whether it's kids offering to go shopping for local elderly neighbors, or teams of engineers coming together to 3D print much-needed respirators.