Some countries have managed the global pandemic better than others.
The same can be said for cities.
But understanding how cities are faring in the fight against Covid is more complicated that comparing infection rates and mask rules.
The London-based analytical agency Deep Knowledge Analytics (DKA) examined 114 variables across five categories of pandemic responses: economic resiliency, governance, healthcare, quarantines and vaccinations.
The results were published in September in a 116-page report entitled “Covid-19 City Safety Ranking Q2/2021.”
In total, DKA analyzed 8,200 data points — up from 1,250 in its first city report published in March — that touched on topics from quarantine lengths and economic support packages to civic resistance among residents.
The top 50 cities
DKA analyzed 72 cities and ranked the top 50.
Lisbon, Portugal came in at No. 50, with a score of 50.37 that was thwarted by a rocky vaccine rollout in the first half of 2021. Portugal now has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with nearly 86% of the country’s population having received two doses, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
Cities including Istanbul, Johannesburg, Bangkok, New Delhi, Cairo, Mexico City and Baghdad were analyzed, but did not make the top 50 list.
What top cities did right
Cities that ranked high on the list tended to act early and swiftly, said DKA Director Alexei Cresniov.
Countries with response plans in place due to recent health crises — such as Singapore, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates — were better prepared, according to the report. Italy, in contrast, had a pandemic plan but failed to implement it, Cresniov said.
Cities that already had — or that quickly developed — technology related to contract tracing, telemedicine and vaccination distribution ranked high on the list.
Metropolitan areas in countries with authoritarian governments, or in places that implemented strict measures to combat the pandemic, also ranked high, though achieving a balance became necessary as the situation evolved, said Cresniov.
In “the later stages, the main thing is the balance … between lockdown and the resources of your population,” he said, adding that lockdowns started failing as economic and psychological harm increased.
Finally, populations that trust their local governments have fared better in the fight against the coronavirus, said Cresniov.
That’s apparent in Abu Dhabi as well as in Asia generally, where, he said, “When the government said there was a pandemic and ‘please people stay home,’ people obeyed.”
Conversely, lack of trust hampered pandemic responses in Hong Kong, according to the report, as well as Russia and liberal democracies in the West, such as the United States, Canada and many European countries, he said.
The average score for all cities was 55.36 out of a possible 100 points, indicating “every city has some room to improve,” said Cresniov.
The report also found that:
- Globally, the pandemic revealed poor coordination between national governments and municipal authorities.
- No city had the healthcare capacity to support massive surges in illness caused by the pandemic.
- Satisfaction with local governments decreased in 80% of the analyzed municipalities during the pandemic. Satisfaction rates increased, however, in Seoul and Abu Dhabi, and held up well in Singapore, Sydney and Ottawa, Canada, said Tetiana Humeniuk, head of analytics at DKA.
- Only 10% of cities prepared “well-thought-out plans” of economic support for citizens and business. Humeniuk cited London, Berlin and Toronto as examples of cities that have these in place.
- Only 25% of cities adopted measures to effectively and quickly “flatten the curve,” while only 11% of cities thoroughly tested and contract-traced. Those measures, along with quarantines, “are the keys to fighting a pandemic,” according to the report, which acknowledged that contract-tracing apps are controversial, but “this method proved itself.”
- Only 17% of cities have a thorough post-Covid strategy, according to the study.
- Countries around the world responded more individually than collectively to the pandemic, according to the report.