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Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile
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Santiago has long suffered air pollution. The growing number of cars, industrial activity, and burning wood stoves, especially in the winter months, have contributed to its smoggy conditions. The government had banned certain vehicles, burning wood for heat, and scorching fields to curb air pollution. Now, with coronavirus restrictions in place, the residents of the Chilean capital are finally able to enjoy the beauty of the glacier-capped mountains encircling the city. Air pollution has decreased by a third during the shutdown of large areas of the city to combat coronavirus, according to a report released by the University of Santiago. “The Andes are more clearly visible, the days seem brighter, and the sun seems stronger than is normal for this time of year,” says Eileen Smith, a writer who has been living in Santiago for 16 years.

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam
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Last year, Hanoi was listed among the most polluted cities on the AirVisual Index prompting the government to warn its residents to keep windows closed and not to exercise outdoors.  Pollution from burning coal and crop remnant fires on farms are some of the factors contributing to the constant haze that the city endures in the absence of rain.

In early April, the Vietnam Times reported that air quality significantly improved due to COVID-19 measures which reduced transportation by half and halted manufacturing. The bustling capital city of Hanoi, along with Ho Chi Minh City, experienced much cleaner air between late March and April; the PM2.5 level that had stood at 104.3 micrograms/cubic metre, far exceeding WHO’s recommendation, dropped to 11.5 by the end of March.

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Seoul, South Korea

Seoul, South Korea
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Last March, South Korea took emergency measures to address the ‘social disaster’ of pollution, after seeing record levels of fine dust layering all across the nation, reported The Guardian. Despite measures to limit the use of vehicles, curb coal-fired power stations, and construction, the city saw little improvement.

Almost a year later in February, South Korea faced one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks outside of mainland China. According to CNN, the nation brought the cases under control with aggressive testing and contact tracing methods. As an added bonus, the capital of Seoul “saw a 54 per cent drop in PM2.5 levels from February 26 to March 18 from the previous year.”

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