By: Stuart White 03-05-2020
I spoke last week about some signs of gradual easing of Lockdown restrictions in many parts of the world. People used to complete freedom of movement are now rattling their chains of confinement and putting pressure on governments if not to completely lift restrictions, then to provide a timetable for the phased easing of regulations.
Here in Botswana, where infection rates are low, HE President Masisi this week unveiled just such a plan, though full details are yet to be released; whilst in several European countries there are rumblings of discontent from the virus detainees about when they might reasonably expect to be released for good behaviour.
Well the Bible tells us that for every thing there is a season and this disruption will be no exception. But it will leave behind a myriad of unexpected consequences.
Take pets, for instance. Veterinarians have warned of severe mental consequences to the lifting for the mental health of pets in general but dogs in particular. It is a well known syndrome that dogs can and do suffer from boredom and loneliness if their owner is out at work most of the day. There are apocryphal stories of those owners coming home to find ripped up curtains and sofas, mess on the floor and general mayhem caused by their dog running amok whiles they were out earning an honest buck, though those animals are the exception, not the rule. Most become accustomed to a quiet, empty house during the day, hence the enthusiastic greeting when their master or mistress comes back home.
But recently the situation has changed. Owners appear to have stopped this bad habit of disappearing from nine to five and have realised that they need to stay home and pay their pet more attention. They have seen the error or their ways, come to their senses and finally got their priorities right. To use an old adage, the owners’ lives are now a month of Sundays, home very day where they belong, making sure of regular exercise with walks to the local park and keeping themselves fit and healthy with stick and ball throwing and such like.
Well, that’s how it appears in the eyes of the dog, anyway.
So, you can imagine how it will seem when owners suddenly relapse after Lockdown and go back to their bad old ways. Out of the house as soon as they’ve downed their morning coffee, shooting off in the car, out all day gallivanting again, only bothering to come back early evening for a quick wash and brush up, then out to the cinema or the restaurant with never a second’s thought for poor Rover or Fifi, abandoned once more.
Vest are predicting a wave of doggy depression following the easing of restrictions with some very confused pooches wondering what they did to deserve the desertion this time, just when they thought the relationship was back on track and going so well. But not in any way to downplay the seriousness of canine mental health, all over the world there have been positive and unforeseen consequences of global locked-down syndrome.
Cleaner air and increased visibility
Cleaner air has perhaps been the single greatest positive effect of the lockdowns on the environment. Citizens in Northern India are seeing the view of the Himalayan mountain range for the first time in their lives, due to the drop in air pollution caused by the country's coronavirus lockdown. Those living in Jalandhar in northern Punjab have shared pictures of the mountains from rooftops and empty streets, amazed by the view which has been hidden by pollution for 30 years.
Cities across the world have seen pollution levels plummet as people have spent less time in vehicles, offices and factories. Reductions in particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide have been Europe, with cities including Paris, Madrid and Milan all seeing a reduction in average levels of nitrogen dioxide from March 14-25, compared with the same period last year, according to new satellite images. The images, released by the European Space Agency, show the changing density of the harmful gas - which is emitted when fossil fuels are burnt.
In Venice, famous for its winding canals, water quality appears to have improved amid Italy's stringent coronavirus lockdown. Residents in the city have said the waterways are benefiting from the lack of usual boat traffic brought on by the hoards of tourists who visit each year. Emptied of the usual array of motorboat taxis, transport and tourist boats which clog the canals, there has reportedly been a sharp improvement in the clarity of the water, thought to be linked to a reduced amount of sediment clouding the waterways, with muddy canal floors no longer being churned up. The change has reportedly offered locals clear views of shoals of small fish, crabs and multicoloured plant-life - sights often obscured by busy boating movement in the Lagoon.
Wildlife elsewhere has also taken the opportunity presented by deserted suburban streets and city centres to venture out and explore. In Barcelona, Spain, boars have been spotted along the city's normally bustling avenues, snuffling and trotting around where vehicles once jostled for position. Meanwhile in Chile's capital, Santiago, a wild puma was captured after being found wandering around the city's deserted centre during a night-time curfew, having ventured down from nearby surrounding hills. "This is the habitat they once had and that we've taken away from them," said livestock director, Marcelo Giagnoni.
Similarly In Northern America, orcas have also been encouraged to explore, with locals reporting spotting the majestic whales in parts of a Vancouver fjord for the first time in decades. And deer in Nara, Japan, have been on the move. With the park they inhabit devoid of tourists and the food they supply, small herds have been venturing into the city, nibbling on ornamental flowers and plants.
Even here in Botswana, local baboons have been quick to note the lack of traffic on the road and are taking full advantage of the safer conditions to roam further and wider in search of food which they normally scavenge from discarded fast-food containers and skips.
As another old English adage goes, ‘it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good’. It is, in fact, quite literally a breath of fresh air.