Paris falls silent: Sound maps show impact of confinement

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A woman crosses an empty street during a nationwide confinement to counter the new coronavirus, in Paris, Thursday, March 26, 2020. (AP)
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A woman walks in an empty street near the Eiffel Tower during a nationwide confinement to counter the new coronavirus, in Paris, Thursday, March 26, 2020. (AP)
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A woman takes a break after a run in an empty street during a nationwide confinement to counter the new coronavirus, in Paris, Thursday, March 26, 2020. (AP)
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A boy plays with a ball during a nationwide confinement to counter the new coronavirus, in Paris, Thursday, March 26, 2020. (AP)
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This picture shows the empty Arc of Triomphe square during a nationwide confinement to counter the new coronavirus, in Paris, Thursday, March 26, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 26 March 2020

Paris falls silent: Sound maps show impact of confinement

  • Some 150 monitoring stations around Paris and its suburbs have recorded an “unusual silence” since the virus prevention lockdown officially began

PARIS: What’s that sound beneath the Eiffel Tower? It’s silence — a rare phenomenon in big cities like Paris, but one that’s increasingly common now that tourism is banned and millions of people in and around the French capital are confined at home.
Some 150 monitoring stations around the Ile-de-France — the name given to Paris and its suburbs — have recorded an “unusual silence” since the virus prevention lockdown officially began March 17.
The agency that measures sound pollution in the region, Bruitparif, released before-and-after maps Thursday showing the drop in decibels.
It’s especially notable around Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, thanks to the grounding of most flights. And alongside highways, whose traffic has slowed to a trickle as workers stay home. And around neighborhoods packed with night clubs, which are now shuttered to keep people at a safe social distance and keep the virus at bay.
Bruitparif noted a “very sharp drop in noise emissions of anthropogenic origin” — related to human activity — caused by a “drastic reduction in road, air and even rail traffic, the suspension of construction sites and the closure of many activities and festive places.”
French authorities are struggling to slow the spread of the virus, which has claimed more than 1,300 lives around France and prompted confinement measures that are threatening jobs and pummeling the economy.
But they have also reduced air and sound pollution in one of Europe’s most densely populated cities.
The maps show that even in the center of Paris, the decibel levels are down to what you’d normally see in suburban parkland. Some streets saw a 90% drop in sound levels over the past week. And Bruitparif says zones considered as facing “excessive noise have practically disappeared, notably at night.”
Still, there is one sound that Parisians are hearing a lot more of lately: Birdsong.


UK epidemic is slowing; antibody test could soon be ready, say scientific advisers

Updated 5 sec ago

UK epidemic is slowing; antibody test could soon be ready, say scientific advisers

  • Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said there were signs that locking down the country a week ago had slowed the rate of transmission of the virus
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed stringent controls after projections showed a quarter of a million people could die

LONDON: The coronavirus epidemic in the United Kingdom is showing signs of slowing and antibody tests could be ready in days, Neil Ferguson, a professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London, said on Monday.
“We think the epidemic is just about slowing in the UK right now,” Ferguson told BBC radio.
Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, also said there were signs that locking down the country a week ago had slowed the rate of transmission of the virus. He said Britain was not in a “fast acceleration” phase.
Official data on Monday showed 1,408 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) had died so far and there were 22,141 positive cases.
Britain initially took a modest approach to containing the spread of the disease compared with European countries such as Italy.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed stringent controls after projections showed a quarter of a million people could die. Johnson has since become the first leader of a major power to announce a positive test result for coronavirus.
Vallance said on Monday the restrictions — which have seen public transport use fall to less than a quarter of normal levels — were already having a “big effect” on the transmission of the virus.
This in turn would lead to fewer people being admitted to hospital, he said, and ultimately reduce the total fatality figure.
Hospital admissions had already stabilized at about 1,000 per day, he said.
“It’s quite important — it tells you that actually this is a bit more stable than it has been,” he said, adding that the country was tracking France rather than the worse-hit Italy and Spain.
He said it would take another 2 to 3 weeks to determine the extent of the slowdown in the spread of the virus because of the lag between the rate of transmission and that of hospital admissions.
Ferguson said a third or even 40% of people do not get any symptoms and thought perhaps 2% to 3% of Britain’s population had been infected.
But Ferguson cautioned that the data was not good enough to make firm extrapolations.
He said antibody tests were in the final stage of validation and could hopefully be ready in “days rather than weeks.”