Urban density and Covid-19: towards an adaptive approach

Published on Feb 10, 2021
· DOI :10.5334/BC.89
Jacques Teller21
Estimated H-index: 21
(University of Liège)
A literature review and analysis is presented on the influence that urban density has on the diffusion of Covid-19. Six main categories of factors are identified: urban settlement, socioeconomic factors, urban services, urban environment, policies and time. At this stage there is no scientific consensus about the effect of density. Urban connectivity appears to play a bigger role in the diffusion of the pandemic. Important gaps are identified in the literature on the compared governance of risk and the density at the building level. More research should be directed to the evaluation of adaptation measures adopted by cities, communities and individuals. The relation between urban density and health issues should be framed in a vulnerability perspective, considering the interplay between exposure, sensitivity and the adaptive capacity of cities. Policy relevance Given the lack of consensus between scientific studies, it is too early to reverse the existing policies and recommendations that promote dense and compact development. Instead, more attention should be paid to the types/conditions of density and the equitable access to urban services and green infrastructures in order to minimise risks and lower the burden of social-distancing measures in dense environments. Resilience policies should focus on addressing deficiencies in the existing urban environment that are at the core of the epidemic outbreak. These policies should be based on a close collaboration with local communities and intermediate actors (e.g. planners, architects, health officials, etc.) to address social, economic and technological inequalities.
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