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2023 | Book

Cities Under COVID-19: A Systems Perspective

Editors: Philippa Howden-Chapman, Franz Wilhelm Gatzweiler, Rachel Cooper, Isaac Luginaah

Publisher: Springer Nature Singapore

Book Series : Urban Health and Wellbeing


About this book

The 15 international authors of this book live in Brazil, Canada, Cameroon, China, Cuba, European Union, Finland, Gaza Strip, India, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom and the United States of America. The authors are linked to the International Science Council’s Urban Health and Wellbeing Programme.

In this book the authors analyse the management of COVID-19, which started in late 2019, in their cities. They explain their city’s political, social and economic context, the dynamics of how the pandemic unfolded, drawing on quantitative and visual data, and their reflections on how it was managed. The book concludes with an analysis of the similarities and differences among COVID-19 outcomes in these cities. Using a systems perspective to learn from these experiences can help all cities to improve the governance of pandemics and be better prepared for likely future ones.

Table of Contents

The COVID-19 pandemic has understandably been the subject of an extraordinary amount of scientific research since the virus was identified in 2019. Most of this research has focused on virus mutations, their clinical effects, the impacts on different population age groups and international comparisons. Our focus in this edited book is not on these aspects of the virus, but on what impact urban governance can make on the spread of COVID-19. This has received surprisingly little attention.
Philippa Howden-Chapman, Franz Wilhelm Gatzweiler, Isaac Luginaah, Rachel Cooper
BRAZIL: COVID-19 in São Paulo
São Paulo was the epicentre and major focus of SARS-CoV-2 dissemination in Brazil. The first documented case was a senior citizen admitted to a private hospital in São Paulo just after his return from Italy. Less than a week later, the first local infections were documented. The spread of COVID-19 in São Paulo has a vivid and complex plot. Different and sometimes opposing forces emerged, either favouring or reducing the pandemic’s spread.
Paulo Saldiva
CAMEROON: Epidemiological Insights, Public Health Response, and Potential Psycho-Socio-Economic Impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic in Douala—A Population-Based Study
An outbreak of a new coronavirus disease that causes respiratory tract infections and can be lethal in humans began in China in December 2019. On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the current outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a respiratory illness caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is a pandemic (Coronavirus disease (COVID19) outbreak situation. Geneva. Available from https://​www.​who.​int/​emergencies/​diseases/​novelcoronavirus​ 2019 (Consulted on November 28th 2020)). COVID-19 started spreading rapidly to other countries by the end of December 2019. With the spread of the virus worldwide, global concerns about human pandemics are growing. As of December 2021, the global death toll had passed 5,455,963, with infections rising to more than 289,116,951 (Coronavirus. Available from: https://​www.​worldometers.​info/​coronavirus/​country/​turkey/​). The first case in Africa was identified in Egypt in February 2020. According to the WHO, there have been 9,822,511 confirmed cases and 229,061 deaths registered in Africa by 30 December 2021. South Africa and Morocco have crossed 1,000,000 cases. They are followed by Tunisia (726,706 cases), Ethiopia (420,342 cases) and Egypt (388,734 cases) (Coronavirus disease (COVID-2019) situation reports, 2021 Available from: https:// www.​who.​int/​emergencies/​diseases/​novel-coronavirus-2019/​situation-reports (consulté le 5 juin 2020)).
Blaise Nguendo-Yongsi
CANADA: Examining the Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic in the City of London and Middlesex County Using a Systems Approach—What Lessons Can We Learn?
In Canada, as in many countries, the three levels of government continue to respond decisively to the novel coronavirus crisis (COVID-19) with a focus on increasing the capacity of the health care system and containing the spread of COVID-19 using public health measures such as hand washing, wearing masks, physical distancing, and a push for vaccination. One of the most challenging issues in establishing an action plan in response to an unexpected event like a pandemic is the uncertainty and speed at which evidence emerges. Hence, the ways new policies for managing the pandemic are communicated, mediated among varied stakeholders, and engage all stakeholders in complex decision-making processes are crucial to success.
Isaac Luginaah, Godwin Arku, Donna Kosmack
CHINA: Urban Factors Influencing COVID-19 Incidence Under Central-Local Interaction
The rapid spread and continuous mutation of SARS-CoV-2 virus threatened global public health systems, challenging the established leadership models (Catalyst in N Engl J Med Catal Innov Care Del 1(2), 2020), depressing economies, and stagnating people’s daily lives. Densely populated cities where person-to-person transmission occurs easily are particularly vulnerable to epidemics (Kapiriri and Ross in Global Social Welfare: Research, Policy and Practice 7:33–45, 2020), thus should not be ignored in research on epidemics like COVID-19 (Ali and Keil in Urban Studies 43:491–509, 2006; Alirol et al. in Lancet Infect Dis 11:131–141, 2011; Liu in Cities 103, 2020; Neiderud in Infect Ecol Epidemiol 5:27060, 2015).
Lan Wang, Lingyue Li, Surong Zhang
CUBA: COVID-19 in Havana, Cuba 2020
Havana, capital of the Republic of Cuba, is also La Habana, one of the 15 provinces in the country and the city with the largest population, with an area of 727 km. It was founded in 1519 by the Spanish conquerors. It has a roughly trapezoidal shape and has grown over the years from the main road axes. Havana is the main centre for spatial, economic, service, cultural and scientific organisations, as well as the main node for transport and communications.
Juan Vela Valdés
Europe Social and Industrial Clusters to Support European Cities Under COVID-19: The Impact of the European Alliance on Coronavirus Actions
It has never been more evident than it is now that close collaboration and coordination both between sectors and across scales is an essential strategy for cities to face global challenges (Cervantes and Keenan in Resolving global challenges and crises through international collaboration. In OECD Science, Technology and Innovation Outlook 2021: Times of Crisis and Opportunity, Chapter 5. OECD Publishing, Paris, 2021). The European Union and Commission have understood this for some time, but a practical solution has not been obvious. The unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 crisis has undoubtedly accelerated possible actions.
Céline Rozenblat, Montse Daban, Antonio Novo Guerrero, Anais le Corvec, Athanasios G. Konstandopoulos
FINLAND: How Bright Are the Northern Lights—Finnish Welfare State and Local Responses to COVID-19
The first case of the coronavirus was diagnosed in Finland in a Chinese tourist in a holiday resort in Lapland on 29 January 2020. Within two weeks COVID-19 was included in the list of generally hazardous communicable diseases in the Government Decree on Communicable Diseases. The number of cases in Finland stayed at one until cases started to increase at the end of February and early March, as travel from the Alps during the winter holidays occurred. On 16 March, the Finnish government, jointly with the president of Finland, declared a state of emergency.
Mari Vaattovaara, Henrik Lönnqvist
GAZA STRIP: Non-State Actors and COVID-19—Hamas as a Case Study
In late 2019, the novel coronavirus appeared in Wuhan province in China, resulting in thousands of deaths. Because of the public health emergency China took unprecedented measures by locking down millions of people in the Hubei areas (BBC in Coronavirus: Wuhan in first virus cluster since end of lockdown. BBC News. 2020. https://​www.​bbc.​com/​news/​world-asia-china-52613138). The crisis tested the preparedness of various societies and states as countries sought to prevent deaths and overloading of their health care systems. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of January 10, 2022, there were around 300 million confirmed cases and more than 5.5 million deaths, and more than 9 billion vaccines administered (WHO in WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard. World Health Organization. 2022. https://​covid19.​who.​int). The crisis forced many governments to respond quickly, including closing economies, shutting down countries, and forcing citizens to adhere to new measures for many months.
Abdalhadi Alijla
India Coping Strategies, Response and Sustainable Future to COVID-19 in the Capital of India, Delhi
COVID-19 was declared a Public Health Emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 30 January 2020. Due to the high transmission rate, the virus spread across the globe very quickly creating fear and anxiety among people. Most countries advised their people to follow new social norms such as: adequate physical distancing, covering the mouth and nose using face masks, avoiding handshakes and social gathering, following travel restrictions, etc.
Aakriti Grover, R. B. Singh
NEPAL: COVID-19 Response in Biratnagar
Biratnagar is located in Province 1 of Nepal (Fig. 1), previously known as the Eastern Development Region. It is the capital city of Morang district. Biratnagar is the second largest city of Nepal, both in area (77.5 km2) and population (242,548); Kathmandu being the largest. Biratnagar is also the largest business hub of the region.
Suraj Bhattarai, Suman Kumar Karna
NEW ZEALAND: Aotearoa New Zealand Cities Under Covid-19—A Systems Perspective
Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) is a cluster of three islands in the South Pacific temperate climate zone. At the 2018 Census, NZ had a population of five million, predominantly European, with 16.7% indigenous Māori, 8.3% Pasifika peoples, 15.7% Asian people and 1.6% of people from other countries. More than a quarter of the NZ population was born overseas and another one million people, who have citizenship or residency, live overseas. These demographic, ethnic and residency characteristics have created pressure points in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Philippa Howden-Chapman, Libby Grant
NIGERIA: Coping with COVID-19 in Two Urban Communities in Ibadan, Nigeria
The arrival of the severe acute respiratory distress syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in Nigeria in February 2020 caught the health system and other community services largely unprepared to cope with the challenges that the pandemic was to bring. This lack of preparedness was particularly felt in urban areas where large population concentrations in overcrowded spaces provided circumstances that were highly conducive to the rapid spread of an airborne respiratory disease such as SARS-CoV-2.
Akinyinka O. Omigbodun
SRI LANKA: A Case Study of Colombo
The city of Colombo has been the commercial capital of Sri Lanka for over two centuries. The city borders the sea and monsoonal rains cause periodic flooding. The large Kelani River marks its northern borders and there are multiple waterways within the city. The river is the major source of water for the city. The city’s border with the Indian ocean made it an important port for trade with Europe as far back as the fifth century. During the eighth century there were settlements of Arab traders in the area. The Portuguese invasion took place in 1505 and in the mid-1600s the area was controlled by the Dutch, who grew cinnamon in the area now known as Cinnamon Gardens. The British invasion in the early nineteenth century had a profound impact and in 1815 Colombo was proclaimed the capital of Ceylon. A breakwater was built during the 1870s.
Ruwan Wijayamuni, Dinuka Guruge, Saroj Jayasinghe
UNITED KINGDOM: A Case Study of Lancaster
Lancaster is an historic city located in the county of Lancashire, in the north-west of England. A population of approximately 146,038 makes it the fourth largest district council in the county. The city covers an area of approximately 576.2 km2, is located 7 km from the coast and includes the seaside town of Morecambe. It is the most northerly city in Lancashire, is located on the river Lune and was once one of the most important ports in England.
Rachel Cooper, Louise Mullagh, Naomi Jacobs, Nuri Kwon
United States of America: New York City and COVID-19
New York City (NYC) was the first major epicentre of COVID-19 in the USA, largely because of its population size, density, and location as a commercial and tourist hub (Angel et al. in The coronavirus and the cities, 2020). Discrepancies between the mayoral, state and federal responses defined both public messaging and policy responses aimed at containing infection and preventing deaths. Mayor Bill de Blasio publicly criticised the response on the federal level led by the Trump administration, while ongoing disagreements between de Blasio and New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo contributed to delays in instituting stay-at-home orders; this substantially increased the number of cases and deaths throughout the city (Shaman in Differential effects of intervention timing on COVID-19 spread in the United States, 2020).
Amy Howden-Chapman, Veronica Olivotto
In this book, authors from 15 different countries used systems perspectives to analyse their cities’ responses to COVID-19 in the first two years of the pandemic. In this concluding chapter, we outline the different policy approaches, the outcomes achieved and some of the global lessons learnt. We are conscious that the pandemic and the outcomes are unpredictable, and not yet over. However, the pattern of excess deaths in our case study countries, excluding those countries where the data are considered less reliable or not available, has shown that by mid-2022, Omicron has presented new challenges for the effectiveness of early strategies.
Philippa Howden-Chapman, Franz Wilhelm Gatzweiler, Isaac Luginaah, Rachel Cooper
Cities Under COVID-19: A Systems Perspective
Philippa Howden-Chapman
Franz Wilhelm Gatzweiler
Rachel Cooper
Isaac Luginaah
Copyright Year
Springer Nature Singapore
Electronic ISBN
Print ISBN