Wuhan, China, 2 September 2020 - The COVID-19 Wuhan Guidance Papers were released globally today in a widely attended webinar hosted from Beijing and Wuhan. UN-Habitat China together with its partners in Wuhan and with collaborating national agencies, published four detailed papers on the emerging experiences on responding to COVID-19 in Chinese cities and towns.

COVID-19 broke out at an epidemic scale in Wuhan, in January 2020 with initial lessons on responding being learned in this metropolitan city of 10 million people but also in the secondary and county towns of Hubei Province. A wide range of measures were implemented to roll back the epidemic and restart the social-economic recovery. When municipal departments re-opened, UN-Habitat reached out in order to learn about and share the know-how around the response.

UN-Habitat has been closely working with Wuhan and  with the municipal planning institute, the Wuhan Land Use and Spatial Planning Center (WLSP) since 1916 developing a programme to promote and develop improved public spaces in Wuhan. An international Placemaking Week was organized in late 2018 and thematic explorations on child-friendly city strategies and healthy cities began in 2019.

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, UN-Habitat set up a local partnership with WLSP and Wuhan University and invited the national agencies, CITIC General Institute of Architectural Design and Research, the Institute of Public and Environment Affairs and the China Women’s Development Foundation to be part of the initiative to develop the COVID-19 Wuhan Guidance Papers.

The first two Papers deal with Community Management Approaches and with the provision of non-hospital spaces for care and isolation. The capacity to support communities by organizing them in a citywide grid, with clear protocols on controls and quarantine was already established in Wuhan in February 2020. Existing smartphone platforms were adapted to the lockdown needs. Meanwhile, the health response was quickly complemented with new and converted quarantine centres. The Papers are complemented by three case studies, including one on sewage treatment challenges to which the private sector responded.

Two more Papers are about smart technologies. A first one shed light on the quick introduction of QR Apps and Big Data for Tracking and Mapping of people, indicating whether they were cleared to move around or requiring self-isolation. The final paper shows how tracking and mapping were used to steer the Resumption of the Economy and Community Life. More case studies show how mobile phones became essential, both in the response but also for the recovery, for instance as a tool to distribute consumption coupons.

In the e-launch of today, Mr. Yan Chung, the Deputy Director General of the Wuhan Natural Resources and Planning Bureau, expressed his gratitude for the global collaboration with China and Wuhan in fighting against COVID-19 and appreciated the sharing of experience amongst the collaborating institutions. Senior staff from the involved agencies and institutes presented the Papers. Panel discussions were moderated by Ms. Milena Ivkovich of ISOCARP and Mr. Wang Yu of NTNU (Norway).

In one of the panel discussions, Professor Serge Salat of Paris Special School of Architecture observed that the Wuhan papers highlight the big data and deep learning potential when engaging planners and public health professionals, to build together a spatial epidemiology science as the study of spatial and temporal variation in disease risk or incidence in urban environments. He added that “this approach has proven being very efficient in China in terms of timely information release, real-time risk monitoring, online communication and collaboration, trend analysis and judgment, and remote medical assistance. It has saved thousands of lives while ensuring a quick recovery of economic functions.”

In her closing remarks, Ms. Christine Knudsen, UN-Habitat’s Director of Emergencies, noted that COVID-19 is still a global scourge causing ill health, death, crisises and poverty, especially for the most vulnerable communities. She appealed to partners in Wuhan and China to increase their collaboration with UN-Habitat and cities in need to develop data-driven solutions in support of green and inclusive recovery and resilience plans.

The COVID-19 Wuhan Guidance Papers are available online in English and Chinese. In 2020 and 2021, UN-Habitat and WLSP will continue their collaboration, with a strong emphasis on urban health.