From Empty Soccer Stadiums to Deep-Cleaned Cash: Unexpected Consequences of Coronavirus

A clerk disinfects banknotes in the headquarters of Suining Bank in Suining city in southwest China's Sichuan province Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020
Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

From reduced carbon emissions to the cancellation of sports events, here’s a look at some of the more unforeseen effects.

The more than 80,000 reported cases of novel coronavirus have been widely varied. Many of those sickened had only mild symptoms followed by full recoveries. Others suffered severe respiratory illness and even death, in a small percentage of cases. 

The disparity is part of why officials say it’s been difficult to contain the virus and predict what impact it will ultimately have on the world.

Despite the unknowns, the virus's dramatic rise and fears of its continued spread are already affecting nearly every area of life. From reduced carbon emissions to the cancellation of sports events, here’s a look at some of the more unforeseen effects.

Low-income families are struggling financially

The outbreak started in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has since spread across China and around the world.

One survey conducted by the Society for Community Organisation in Hong Kong suggests that low-income families have been hit especially hard. 

The survey found that 66% of 397 low-income families polled had been impacted financially by the outbreak, with some families seeing a drop of up to 10,000 Hong Kong dollars ($1,283) over the past month. Around 24% said at least one family member was unemployed during the epidemic. 

The survey also suggests that low-income families can't afford the masks commonly used as a precaution. About 60% of the families polled reported fewer than 10 masks in stock at home. 

Global sports events have been cancelled

Fears of the virus spreading through close contact has prompted sports officials to cancel a number of international sports events.

Behind China and South Korea, Italy has the third most reported cases of the virus. Officials there cancelled four Serie A professional soccer games that were to have taken place Feb. 23 in northern Italy. The Six Nations rugby match between Ireland and Italy scheduled for March 7 in Dublin's Aviva Stadium has also been canceled.  

The Italian government is considering having future soccer matches played behind closed doors and without fans, the Associated Press reported

Other events have also been postponed, including the World Athletics Indoor Championships, Formula One's Chinese Grand Prix and the World Table Tennis Championships.

Carbon emissions in China have decreased

Efforts to contain coronavirus, including travel restrictions, have temporarily reduced China's carbon emissions, according to a new analysis by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. 

Coal use at power stations reporting daily data is at a four-year low. Oil refinery operating rates in the Shangdong province is at the lowest level since 2015 and domestic flights are down nearly 70% compared to last month. 

These reductions across "key industrial sectors" have likely wiped out a quarter or more of the country's CO2 emissions over the past two weeks, the analysis found.

Still, experts warn that the China's coming economic stimulus measures could outweigh the shorter-term impacts on emissions, "as it did after the global financial crisis and the 2015 domestic economic downturn." 

Racism and xenophobia are on the rise

Fueled by racist ignorance, the panic surrounding coronavirus has led to the spread of xenophobic rumors and attacks on people of Chinese and Asian descent. 

Videos captured in the United States show several assaults and harassment of Asian people wearing face masks. Misinformation has also led to a decline in sales at restaurants in Chinatowns around the world.

This uptick in xenophobia has prompted several human rights organizations to respond.

“The Chinese government should take measures to protect people from discrimination, while governments around the world should take a zero-tolerance approach to the racist targeting of people of Chinese and Asian origin," said Nicholas Bequelin, regional director at Amnesty International. "The only way the world can fight this outbreak is through solidarity and cooperation across borders."

Some families can’t meet their newly adopted children

Several American families have had their adoption plans disrupted by the outbreak, CNN reported.

Last month, the State Department issued a level 4 travel advisory urging residents to not travel to China. Officials have also implemented new rules around travel from China, including re-routing Americans flying into the country to 11 designated airports.

Although adoption cases are still being processed, officials advised parents to contact their adoption service providers to discuss future plans, according to CNN.

China is deep-cleaning and destroying cash

China's central bank has started to deep clean the country's currency and destroy potentially contaminated money, CNN reported.

"Cash received by banks must be sterilized before being released to customers," a government press release said. 

The measures include exposing the cash to ultraviolet light or high temperatures or storing it for two weeks before putting it into circulation, according to the press release.

Money coming from high-risk areas, including hospitals, buses and wet markets will be destroyed, CNN reported, citing the state-run Global Times