covid over the city

How Peak URBAN is Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic


The global response to the COVID-19 pandemic has created a “new normal” in our cities, where the greatest clusters have formed. Social distancing measures and a slowdown in activity has changed long-held notions of the metropolis. Yet doubts remain over the impact the pandemic will have on urbanisation over time.

Therefore, the PEAK Urban programme is adapting. Our team, stretched across four continents, is offering cutting-edge research into the pandemic’s fallout.

Here’s their latest work:

South Africa (ACC)

Andrew Tucker was a presenter at The Bartlett’s Development Planning Unit webinar on COVID-19 and contested cities, where he explored various challenges for Cape Town. Neil Hassan has written a site blog on stay-at-home orders for queer individuals. He also gave a lecture at the University of Cape Town on HIV and COVID-19.

Looking ahead, researchers James Duminy with Susan Parnell have written commentary on post-pandemic urban health and governance responses in the forthcoming Cities and Health journal. Warren Smit is writing a blog on COVID-19’s impact on informal settlements in Cape Town. And in early June, Liza Cirolia will present a webinar on COVID-19 in relation to urban infrastructure in African cities. Dr. Cirolia is also working with the South African National Treasury’s Cities Support Programme and the World Bank on upgrading informal settlements through the rapid release of grant funding.

Colombia (EAFIT)

Professor Juan Carlose Duque developed an “insularity index” to understand which municipalities in the city of Antioquia can be opened at low risk, which has thus far proven successful due to quick and easy deployment. Duque’s team then identified industries directly and indirectly related to a reopening sector through a spatial examination of their supply chains, to pinpoint which municipalities will experience an increase in activity if restrictions ease.

 Duque said the high commercial informality in Colombia makes it difficult to determine what will activate when reactivating a given economic sector. His team recently developed an algorithm to map commercial activity in highly informal cities, and plan to develop a system linking commuting patterns to the spatial distribution of economic activities.

India (IIHS)

Members of the IIHS team have been supporting the Government of Delhi Emergency Hunger Response Committee in designing what has emerged as one of the most comprehensive large-scale COVID-19 hunger responses in India, feeding one million people a day.

At the request of state governments, district administrations and the GoI, IIHS has also released two advisories on how to respond to the lockdown and how to prepare for a calibrated release.

Researcher Gautam Bhan’s commentary on migrant security explored possible approaches for immediate relief and near-term recovery. Divya Ravindranath’s analysis assessed the implication of the COVID-19 lockdown on the children of migrant workers. Meanwhile, Shriya Anand, Neethi P and Aditi Surie have written on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19, particularly on labour and employment. (These articles have also been published on our blog.)

Several of these researchers were invited to participate in webinars organised by institutions working in areas of migration, gender and labour. A special edition of the IIHS Research Monthly highlights their recent and ongoing work.

China (PKU)

Professor Tao Liu and Guangzhong Cao have received a grant for research into human mobility and urban-rural governance during COVID-19. Liu and Quijie Shi have written on the COMPAS blog about the different mobility dynamics during the pandemic. Liu and Jin Yongai examined the correlation between distance to Wuhan and infection rates for The Paper, one of China’s most widely read publications. Liu also argued against false assumptions in epidemic prevention measures for Sixth Tone.

Liu and Shi published in Environment and PLanning A: Economic Space about internal migration’s role in spreading infection. Shi and other authors published in Social Science and Medicine on population changes in disease spread, compared to SARS. Liu and Yongai also have forthcoming work in Population Research about human mobility’s role in the virus.

 United Kingdom (University of Oxford)

The Transport Studies Unit (TSU) is actively researching the effects lockdowns in Colombia have had on access to healthy living for the mothers in peripheral neighbourhoods that JP Orjuela is working with.

The Data Analytics team is analysing mobility patterns for Medellin using telecoms data to see if the city can be segmented to reduce infection while preserving most home-work commutes. The team is working with Tesco to understand whether supermarket customer density or at layout affects infection rates. It is also acting as a modelling liaison for Ireland’s response.

ChengHe Guan, as part of the COMPAS team, is involved in generating data on urban sentiment and COVID outbreaks using social media data in Shanghai. Dr. Kazem Rahimi, as part of the Public Health Group, has returned to work in the NHS, directly supporting the medical effort against COVID-19.