How can cities pass the Covid stress test?

Luis Bettencourt praises the dynamic urban milieu but warns there are lessons that need to be learnt

The World Today
5 minute READ

Luis Bettencourt

Inaugural Director of the Mansueto Institute of Urban Innovation and a Professor of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago

Contagious diseases have been the ultimate ‘city killers’ throughout history. Pericles died of the plague bringing down golden age Athens, the Justinian plague completed the unravelling of the Roman empire, the Black Death killed more than a third of Europe’s population in the 1300s and cholera pandemics decimated urban dwellers in epic waves of death until less than a century ago. If cities survived, it was because people kept coming.

The Covid pandemic is no exception. It has already killed more Americans than double the annual death rate in its civil war and more Britons than all civilian deaths during the Second World War. It arrived at a propitious time – as plagues often do.

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