The map exhibits an astounding drop in the levels of nitrogen dioxide specifically from January 1 to February 25
(Photo : NASA Earth Observatory)

The effect of coronavirus on China is so stark that it is reflected as a dramatic drop in air pollution from space, according to the U.S. and European satellites.

Using orbital apparatuses designed to closely observe the quality of air picked up a considerable drop in what the data described as the concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution since January.

Nitrogen dioxide is a hazardous substance released by power plants, gas vehicles, and other fossil fuel-burning machines.

According to the NASA Earth Observatory, the drop is possibly related to a slowdown in economy and restrictions in travels in China since the widespread of the virus.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center air quality researcher, Fei Liu, says that this is the first time she's seen such a dramatic drop over such a wide area for a specific event.

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Sharp Decline in Emissions

Liu also said that other incidents in the past have also led to the measurable decreases of nitrogen dioxide including the economic recession in 2008. However, none have been so intense or took place so fast.

She also noted, that there is frequently an evident drop around this time in China's celebration of the Lunar New Year. But, according to the observer, it's never been so glaring.

This year, Liu explained, the reduction rate is quite more remarkable in previous years and has lasted longer. She added that it is not a surprise, though, since many cities in China have already taken measures for the minimized spreading of COVID-19.

The Chinese government has also reportedly closed some businesses and limited trips between cities.

Wuhan, where the outbreak all stared, has long been the subject of, particularly harsh measures. Relatively, the effect of these measures is reflected in the levels of the local population.

The city's map exhibits an astounding drop in the levels of nitrogen dioxide specifically from January 25 to February 25. Meanwhile, another map presents the sharp drop in emission over Wuhan.

Extraordinary Powers

Earlier, it was reported that the Chinese government has extraordinary powers in terms of public health.

Law professor and Northeastern University's Center for Health Policy and Law in Boston, Wendy Parmet said. The extraordinary powers given the government are indeed, "possible, but not probable."

These two words, she emphasized, are different things. She added that theoretically, state-level or federal governments have the power to shut down all cities.

Parmet also said that the amount of power which the government has in emergency situations may be awesome, yet, it is fearsome to behold.

A glimpse of the extent of the power of the government is seen, following the 9/11 incident, when the traffic in and out of Manhattan got suspended and the skies were shut down for any kind of aircraft.

However, practically speaking, the professor explained, with COVID-19, city shutdowns and quarantines get tricky. More so, people would bring up constitutional questions.

The quarantine lies actually with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention which has already taken the unprecedented move in the past months to quarantine for two weeks, people who are coming back from the high-risk areas of China.