Cities and COVID-19: How the Pandemic Affects Urban Spaces

Recorded in July - August 2020.

2020 will be remembered as the year when a novel strain of coronavirus spread around the globe, leaving a trail of death, despair and disruption in its wake. In this podcast, we explore the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting lives worldwide. We ask how it will change the world as we know it – from the global economy and geopolitics to the long-term consequences for people, societies and cultures. And we want to know: What can we learn from this pandemic and our responses to it?

Around the globe, the coronavirus pandemic has both exposed and widened existing inequalities in a brutal fashion. At the center of the turmoil are the world’s cities. No where is this disparity more evident than in urban spaces, where living conditions and historic contexts magnify the pandemic’s far-reaching impact. In the wake of the virus, city experts are confronted with the destruction caused by high population density levels, an overwhelmed healthcare system, inadequate housing, and sinking sanitation levels in urban areas. In the midst of the chaos caused by the current coronavirus outbreak, city residents are starting to question whether urban life holds the appeal it once had, and if cities are equipped to handle such abrupt disruptions in the future.

In this episode, we explore the pandemic responses in favelas in Brazil, informal settlements in India and so called “cage houses” in Hong Kong. We also discuss the traits that make cities resilient to crises, how cities may change after the COVID-19 outbreak and what lessons city leaders can learn from the current pandemic.


  • Michele Acuto (professor of global urban politics at the Melbourne School of Design at the University of Melbourne)
  • Carolina Guimaraes (project manager at Sustainable Cities Institute in Sao Paulo, Brazil)
  • Yamini Aiyar (president of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, India)
  • Tze-wei Ng (corporate lawyer in Hong Kong)
  • Max Bouchet (research analyst at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program)

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