Governments Urged to Implement COVID-19 Response and Recovery Measures in Urban Areas

art-332-01With most COVID-19 cases worldwide being detected in cities and given that urban economies account for 80 percent of the global Gross Domestic Product, a newly released United Nations (UN) Policy Brief is calling for governments to address the pandemic in these areas.

The Policy Brief on COVID-19 in an Urban World (, which was launched on 28 July 2020, outlines immediate and long-term measures that aim to tackle inequalities and development gaps; strengthen the capacities of local actors, particularly local governments; and work towards a green, inclusive and resilient recovery.

According to the Policy Brief, governments should place priorities on:

  • Investing in disaggregated data to better understand inequalities;
  • Guaranteeing safe shelter for everyone, with significant investments in affordable housing and slum upgrading to ensure everyone has access to shelter that facilitates physical and mental health;
  • Ensuring uninterrupted access to essential public services for all;
  • Guaranteeing equitable access to health supplies and resources, and supporting the poor and other vulnerable groups with free or low-cost access to face masks, testing and treatment. Once available, it will be important to ensure equitable access to a COVID-19 vaccine;
  • Engaging marginalised communities as partners in response efforts; and
  • Embracing diversity and strengthening social cohesion.

“Urban areas are ground zero of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 90 per cent of reported cases,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a recorded message during the launch of the brief.

“Cities are bearing the brunt of the crisis, many with strained health systems, inadequate water and sanitation services, and other challenges.  This is especially the case in poorer areas, where the pandemic has exposed deeply rooted inequalities.

“Now is the time to rethink and reshape the urban world.  Now is the moment to adapt to the reality of this and future pandemics,” he added.

Meanwhile, the UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif told reporters in a virtual press briefing that the Policy Brief is “a powerful instrument” that can provide governments the proper guidance in overcoming the pandemic and taking a different approach to implement recovery measures that enable cities to become greener, healthier and more resilient.

“The transformative potential of urbanisation towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be lost. This moment cannot be missed,” she stated.

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