Thousands of people all around the Maltese Islands have spent most of the past week indoors, with weekends and even public holidays not really meaning much as the nation continues to be eerily empty for a partial lockdown. But while that might sound very dreary, one massive positive side-effect has already emerged.
Monitoring the air quality around Malta has always been a drab task, with orange and red ‘Unhealthy’ alerts routinely showing up for most towns and cities. That seems to have finally changed, though… and all we needed was a global pandemic to force us all indoors.
Up till four months ago, Msida was registering worryingly unhealthy Air Pollution rates of 151. For context, anything over 100 is seen as unhealthy, especially for sensitive groups of the population of which Malta has a lot.
Yesterday, however, the busy valley-town registered a recording-breaking score of 14.
“Nature decided it needed a break from humans,” one post sharing the stark contrast between the two figures said.
Of course, yesterday was a public holiday (which usually means less traffic on Malta’s streets anyway), but 19th March 2020 was a record-breakingly clean day even when that was factored in.
While groups of people still inexplicably congregated on beaches yesterday to celebrate San Ġużepp as if there wasn’t a global pandemic forcing much of the world to practice as much social distancing as possible, most still actually followed the advice of health authorities and spent most of their time indoors.
In fact, yesterday was Msida’s cleanest 19th March in six years, with the cleanest year after this being all the way back in 2015.
Yesterday wasn’t a one-off either; the last 48 hours in Malta alone show green across the board, a far cry from the figures and colours that had been showing up till these past couple of days.
Back then, save for some scarce green dotted out in the very early hours of the morning, the usual colours one might expect to see are yellow, orange… and the previously mentioned worrying red.
Today, some yellow returned to the graph, with factors like wind direction and temperature also playing a part, but still, nothing higher than ‘Moderate’ 50s were recorded on the graph, and usual rush hour has already passed.
Elsewhere in Malta, places like Attard and Żejtun have also registered significant decreases, but it was in a typically pollution-hub like Msida that the improvements rang the loudest. You too can track the Air Quality Index around Malta – and the world – right here.
COVID-19’s spread has given us time to reflect on a lot of things, from how we manage to work and socialise without constant human contact to how art can still survive and evolve… but one of the biggest things people are realising is that maybe we aren’t a glorious gift to this planet after all.