Urban Living, Density and Pandemics
Currently, the world is living through an unprecedented crisis as COVID-19 continues to spread, with over 27 million positive cases and many lives lost. In just about nine months, the COVID pandemic has transformed the way we live, work, travel, and socialize. The world’s cities are generally reacting quickly to this urban humanitarian crisis, and how they respond is critical to protect their populations, halt the pandemic, and set the scene for resilience and recovery. In the webinar “Urban living: Density & Pandemics,” the different perspectives of urban living, density, and inequality in cities during the COVID-19 pandemic were unfolded.
Text: Oscar Milsted Karstad / Picture: Copenhagen Architecture Festival - CAFx
The webinar was organized by Copenhagen Architecture Festival together with Emergency Architecture & Human Rights, WHO, and Think-Fast: A Collective response to COVID-19 and held on 12 June 2020.
Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen and co-chair at the Copenhagen Center for Disaster Research, Emmanuel Raju, and Architect and Urban Planner from the University of Americas in Chile, Francisco Vergara Perucich talked about the different perspectives of urban living, density, and inequality in cities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scroll down to watch the full video recording of the webinar.
Roughly, more than half of the world’s population lives in highly populated urban areas. While cities have provided numerous opportunities for growth and development, our urbanization processes in recent decades have intensified many of humanity’s challenges. COVID-19 has laid bare – and indeed heightened – both these challenges and these opportunities. With an estimated 90 percent of all reported COVID-19 cases, urban areas have become the pandemic’s epicenter.
The pandemic has shown us, even more, the fundamental problem of inequality as a crucial challenge in our towns and cities. COVID-19 will hit the most vulnerable the hardest, including the 1 billion residents of the world’s densely populated informal settlements and slums, and other people lacking access to adequate, affordable, and secure housing. Without safe shelter and access to essential services, lockdowns and notifications to stay home are nearly impossible.
However, these vulnerabilities are not new and were not caused by the pandemic but gradually accumulated by multiple political, economic, social, and spatial factors with very minimal or almost no preparedness for such a scenario has left millions of people vulnerable to health crises and disasters.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how inequality in cities worldwide has aggravated the risk of infection for millions living in informal settlements and on the brink of poverty. The pandemic highlights the need for a new urban agenda. This pandemic is already exacerbating the urban divide that has resulted from a long-term failure to address fundamental inequalities and guarantee basic human rights. The post-COVID-19 response will require these failures to be addressed, and all urban residents provided with essential services - especially health care and housing - to ensure everyone can live with dignity and be prepared for future crises. Local authorities will have to be the driving force in reducing inequality, supported by national government policies that increase the resilience of cities and their residents.
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