The COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted socioeconomic life globally. Nighttime-lights (NTLs) data are mainly related to anthropogenic phenomena and thus have the ability to monitor changes in socioeconomic activity. However, the overglow effect is a source of uncertainty and affects the applicability of NTL data for accurately monitoring socioeconomic changes. This research integrates the NTL and fine bare-land-cover data to construct a novel index named the Bare Adjusted NTL Index (BANTLI) to lessen the overglow uncertainty. BANTLI was used to measure the post-pandemic resumption of religious rituals and socioeconomic activity in Makkah and Madinah at different spatial levels. The results demonstrate that BANTLI significantly eliminates the overglow effect. In addition, BANTLI brightness recovered during the post-pandemic periods, but it has remained below the level of the pre-pandemic period. Moreover, not all wards and rings are affected equally: wards and rings that are near the city center experienced the most explicit reduction of BANTLI brightness compared with the suburbs. The Hajj pilgrimage period witnessed a larger decrease in BANTLI brightness than the pandemic period in Makkah. The findings indicate that (i) BANTLI successfully mitigates the overglow effect in the NTL data, and (ii) the cultural context is important to understand the impact of COVID-19.
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