20 Mar 2020

Empty cities and social distancing: What we're reading this week

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The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed cities around the world into ghost towns. Italy is one of the worst affected countries and is struggling to cope with a high number of deaths. It's good news for China though, where the number of new cases has significantly decreased. In Australia, amid the coronavirus outbreak, the bushfire recovery effort continues.

These are some of the stories that caught our attention this week.


In an Italian city, obituaries fill the newspaper, but survivors mourn alone

The Washington Post / Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli

“Other countries are only beginning to grapple with the pandemic’s implications and the distance it forces between even the closest people. But in Italy, death by lonely death, its full cost is becoming apparent.”


Napoli fans in coronavirus quarantine sing ‘Un Giorno All’Improvviso’ from balconies

The Guardian

Despite Italy being in lockdown and European football in limbo, fans in Naples didn’t let isolation stop them from uniting behind their team.


Wondering about social distancing

The New York Times / Apoorva Mandavilli

The print version of Apporva Mandavilli’s story provides a beautiful visualisation of social distancing and proves that creative storytelling is just as powerful as fact-based reporting during crises.


Image: The New York Times found a novel way to illustrate social distancing in its pages.

Image: The New York Times found a novel way to illustrate social distancing in its pages.


Zero new domestic coronavirus cases in China for first time since epidemic began

South China Morning Post / Teddy Ng and Guo Rui

While the US, Europe and Australia continue to grapple with the virus, China has witnessed significant declines in infection rates. However, there are still questions around the accuracy of Chinese data and whether Beijing covered up the epidemic.


Norway’s PM moves to allay children’s coronavirus fears

Financial Times / Richard Milne

Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg followed in Danish PM Mette Frederiksen’s footsteps and held a press conference for children this week. Questions ranged from “why am I not allowed to celebrate my birthday” to “Are you scared of becoming ill with coronavirus?”


The quiet emptiness of a world under coronavirus

The Atlantic / Alan Taylor

With travel restrictions and self-isolation measures in place around the world, the globe’s most recognisable landmarks have become lonely giants. Photographers in Australia, China, India, Italy, France and the US have captured the eerie stillness of these public places.


Fires left these wallabies nothing to eat. Help arrived from above

The New York Times / Matthew Abbott

Matthew Abbott’s photojournalism during a summer of intense bushfires in Australia has garnered international attention. He continues his stellar work here, with a story about the ongoing work to support native animals that survived the fires.


Aboriginal girl fights to exclude men from seeing strip search footage

The Sydney Morning Herald / Angus Thompson and Ella Archibald-Binge

A 16-year-old girl who says she was unlawfully strip searched to prevent the footage of the search from being shown in court. The teenager is fighting to uphold the cultural sanctity of women’s business. In Indigenous culture, showing a woman’s exposed body parts was considered women’s business.


Main image: Milan's Piazza del Duomo stands empty with Italy in lockdown due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

CC-licensed by Unsplash via Mick De Paola.