Weekly Urban News Update
April 24, 2020
In This Update: 
Data Suggests Istanbul is Under-reporting its COVID Cases
Migrant Workers Blocked from Leaving Lima
Center for Disease Control Finds Coronavirus Spreads Easily in Homeless Shelters
World Bank Study Suggests Denser Cities Are Not More Vulnerable to Pandemics
Cities Around the World Roll Out Plans to Ease Restrictions
UN-Habitat Launches COVID-19 Response and Campaign
In The News and Around the Web: 
Data Suggests Istanbul Is Under-reporting Its COVID-19 Cases
An investigation by The New York Times suggests that the Turkish government has under-reported the COVID-19 death toll in Istanbul. The investigation examined the average number of deaths that occurred March 9th- April 12 over past years and found that recorded deaths increased by 50% during that same time period this year. The overlap with the global coronavirus pandemic implies that COVID-19 is the culprit. Over the past month, the Turkish government has lauded its containment efforts, but the country's medical professionals, some of whom have been arrested for criticizing the government response, say that government reaction was slow and limited. 

Read more here.
Migrant Workers Blocked from Leaving Lima
Last weekend, large numbers of migrant workers who attempted to leave Lima after weeks of stringent lockdown, were stopped and turned around by riot police. Peruvian lockdown restrictions are considered to be one of the region's most stringent. Peru's urban poor, informal workers, and migrant populations are now unable to afford food and shelter in the capital city without work.  One migrant explained why she wished to leave Lima: "Here in Lima there are no longer any jobs, there is no longer any way to pay for food, we do not have any more savings...Now we want to go back because we have a house, family, we have someone who can support us - here in Lima we have absolutely no one."

Read more here.
Center for Disease Control Finds Coronavirus Spreads Easily in Homeless Shelters
The U.S. Center for Disease Control reported widespread coronavirus infections in a number of homeless shelters it tested in Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle. At five of the shelters, public health teams tested all residents and staff. The tests reported positive results for 17%-66% of residents and 17%-30% of staff. In the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, researchers noted that COVID-19 can spread quickly in crowded shelters where social distancing is a challenge. Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, chief division of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital commented: "The findings are...another example of how the epidemic has highlighted our shortcomings in terms of being able to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens."

Read more here.
World Bank Study Suggest Denser Cities Are Not More Vulnerable to Pandemics
In a World Bank blog, Wanli Fang and Sameh Wahba debunk the notion that urban density renders cities more vulnerable to epidemics.  The economists examined data collected from 284 Chinese cities, excluding cities from the Hubei province, where Wuhan, the virus origin is located. They assessed confirmed cases per 10,000 against population density. Fang and Wahba found that densely-populated, wealthier cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Tianjin, and Zhuhai had far fewer confirmed cases than lower density cities. Instead, they found a greater predictor of infection rate to be a city's proximity to the Hubei border. The authors also hypothesized that a city's wealth and ability to mobilize its financial resources was also greater indicator of pandemic vulnerability than density.

Read more here.
Cities Around the World Roll Out Plans to Ease Restrictions
Cities around the world are rolling out their plans to ease coronavirus restrictions. Lockdown exit strategies will challenge governments as they try to navigate the negative economic impacts of an extended lockdown and a spike in infections resulting from opening too soon. Paris will begin to ease restrictions on May 11th, but mandate wearing masks on public transport. The French capital promised to distribute two million masks to its residents.  On May 4th, Berlin will allow public events like protests, religious ceremonies, and open-air gatherings to occur if under fifty people gather and attendees keep 1.5 meters apart. In Netherlands, children will return to school on May 11th, but classes will split into two groups that will attend on alternate days.

Read more  here .
UN-Habitat Launches COVID-19 Response Plan and Campaign
On Thursday, UN-Habitat launched its COVID-19 Response Plan and Campaign. UN-Habitat reports that over 95% of the world's coronavirus cases are in urban areas in nearly 1,500 cities. The plan focuses on 64 countries that need immediate action in poor and densely populated areas. UN-Habitat says that it will direct over 70% of the USD 72 million response plan to help informal settlements improve affordable access to water and sanitation, raise awareness about COVID-19, and prevent homelessness. UN-Habitat aims for the Response Plan and Campaign to provide a roadmap to protect urban populations, halt the pandemic, and promote recovery and resilience.

Read more  here .
In The News and Around the Web
  • UN Says World at Risk of Famines of "Biblical Proportions": On Tuesday, the UN World Food Program announced that the number of people suffering from hunger could increase from 135 million to 250 million by year's end.
  • Singapore's COVID-19 Cases Doubled :   Weeks after receiving praise for its coronavirus mitigation strategy, Singapore's cases have doubled.
  • Cities Are Redefining Public Transportation During Coronavirus::  Mass Transit magazine reviews how cities like Tel Aviv, Berlin, and Abu Dhabi are innovating transportation to improve life under lockdown.
  • Ramadan Under Lockdown : Lockdowns in Muslim-majority countries means Ramadan will look different this year.
A shuttered market in Cairo (Photo Credit:  Sima Diab/ The New York Times)
The ongoing COVID 19 crisis underscores the vital importance of livable cities and decent living conditions globally. The mobility of diseases within and between urban centers adn across borders is sadly demonstrated by the current pandemic. Now more than ever, we need your financial support and your voice to bring about change. Decent living conditions for one billion people worldwide is a fundamental building block of future resilience and pandemic preparedness.

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