August 2020 - A crowd-sourced survey conducted by UN-Habitat which attracted replies from 113 countries found that 95 per cent of respondents lived in cities that had reported at least one COVID-19 case.

According to the survey, the most common COVID-19 preventive measures in cities include social distancing directives (identified by 90 per cent of the respondents) and mandatory wearing of facemasks (67 per cent of the respondents). Other measures mentioned include partial or full lockdowns, bans on inter-city movement, night curfews and regular fumigation of public places.

Although regular handwashing is a recognized method of controlling the spread of COVID-19, only 15 per cent of respondents said they always had access to hand washing or sanitization facilities in public spaces; 35 per cent had regular access to the services; 34 per cent had limited access; and 8 per cent of the respondents had no access at all.  The remaining 8 per cent said restrctions on movement meant they could not access public spaces.

The most significant challenge for urban households included working from home, reduced incomes due to pay-cuts and job losses and supporting children with their school work. At the neighbourhood and city levels, the most significant impacts include disruption in goods supply chains affecting prices.  According to the survey, three quarters of the respondents had witnessed a change in the price of food and non-food items in their cities. For 83 per cent the price had gone up with only 1 percent noting a decrease in prices.  

In terms of urban security and safety, the adopted COVID-19 response measures and their enforcement (such as reduced movements and curfews) led to mixed results with some cities seeing an increase in security with others recording a worsening security and safety situation. Some cities have seen the levels of safety fluctuate over time.

Over half of respondents  (52 per cent) said there had been a change in public transport in their city or neighbourhood. The changes included a reduction in the number of passengers allowed,  partial or complete shutdown of public transport systems, price fluctuations and mandatory facemask wearing.

“The data generated from this survey helps us to estimate the extent of COVID-19 spread in cities and urban areas and the impact of the pandemic on urban residents, and complements other information coming from countries and other organizations, which is key to designing urban-specific response strategies,” said Robert Ndugwa, Chief of UN-Habitat’s Data and Analytics Unit.

The full survey results can be accessed here. The second phase of the survey series, which seeks to identify urban priorities during and post-COVID-19 has also been launched and everyone is encouraged to share their thoughts by taking the survey here.