The sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought drastic changes to people’s daily lives, work, and the surrounding environment. Investigations into these changes are very important for decision makers to implement policies on economic loss assessments and stimulation packages, city reopening, resilience of the environment, and arrangement of medical resources. In order to analyze the impact of COVID-19 on people’s lives, activities, and the natural environment, this paper investigates the spatial and temporal characteristics of Nighttime Light (NTL) radiance and Air Quality Index (AQI) before and during the pandemic in mainland China. The monthly mean NTL radiance, and daily and monthly mean AQI are calculated over mainland China and compared before and during the pandemic. Our results show that the monthly average NTL brightness is much lower during the quarantine period than before. This study categorizes NTL into three classes: residential area, transportation, and public facilities and commercial centers, with NTL radiance ranges of 5–20, 20–40 and greater than 40 (nW·
), respectively. We found that the Number of Pixels (NOP) with NTL detection increased in the residential area and decreased in the commercial centers for most of the provinces after the shutdown, while transportation and public facilities generally stayed the same. More specifically, we examined these factors in Wuhan, where the first confirmed cases were reported, and where the earliest quarantine measures were taken. Observations and analysis of pixels associated with commercial centers were observed to have lower NTL radiance values, indicating a dimming behavior, while residential area pixels recorded increased levels of brightness after the beginning of the lockdown. The study also discovered a significant decreasing trend in the daily average AQI for mainland China from January to March 2020, with cleaner air in most provinces during February and March, compared to January 2020. In conclusion, the outbreak and spread of COVID-19 has had a crucial impact on people’s daily lives and activity ranges through the increased implementation of lockdown and quarantine policies. On the other hand, the air quality of mainland China has improved with the reduction in non-essential industries and motor vehicle usage. This evidence demonstrates that the Chinese government has executed very stringent quarantine policies to deal with the pandemic. The decisive response to control the spread of COVID-19 provides a reference for other parts of the world.
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