The organisation of the World Cities Summit this week provides an appropriate occasion for registering the role of urban conglomerations in the quality of human life, particularly after the coronavirus pandemic has subsided. Singapore’s Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC) notes in a report how cities, which are themselves the result of development, drive economic transformation globally. However, it is precisely their position as global nodes of connectivity, characterised by large populations and intense interaction, that makes cities susceptible to the infectiousness of the virus. The CLC report cites data which shows that an estimated 90 per cent of reported Covid-19 cases globally have been from urban areas.
Notwithstanding such data, cities are an entrenched part of the demographic landscape whose social and economic future can be enhanced by incorporating the lessons taught by Covid-19 into their infrastructure. The pandemic underlined the value of building liveable cities that are resilient, as much as they should be efficient. Adaptability in city planning would need to factor into the efficient use of land resources, the creation of buffers that can be adapted quickly in emergencies. In Singapore, for example, convention centres and former schools were converted into quarantine and community care facilities, and community premises such as community clubs were used to distribute masks, hand sanitisers and contact tracing devices. They are now being used as vaccination centres.