COVID-19 is transforming cities across the globe into scenes from a science fiction novel. People hunkered down at home, rarely venturing into hauntingly empty streets, hospitals and morgues on the brink of collapse, mass furloughs, and public spaces under surreal restrictions.
Historically it’s been the cities that have borne the brunt pandemics and been epicenters of infectious diseases. Although COVID-19 has spread to some rural regions, the overwhelming majority of people infected live in urban areas.
Cities around the globe all have an inherent magnetism about them. The cosmopolitan nature of cities provides personal and professional opportunities drawing together large swaths of people. Thus, these highly populated metropolises are suitable breeding grounds for pandemics.
In response to the pandemic, governments have issued various edicts and decrees from lock downs to social distancing rules in an attempt to retard the spread of the pandemic. In some countries, the military has been employed to enforce the edicts.
However, the reality is that mass restriction of movement will only close businesses unable to move online and starve the poor. And once the lingering fear of infection begins to subside, it will be countered by a quarantine rebound effect. People will eventually defy lockdown due to its impracticality. Necessity will overrule fear, and our inherent social nature will crave for close proximity to fellow humans.
The solution is in the reshaping of our cities. Cities will need to provide safe ways for people to return to a sense of normalcy. Awareness campaigns have to be ongoing at all levels—everyone is not online. Preventive measures, like reasonable social distancing in the workplace, schools, the market, on transport (it’s not a joke), and in restaurants and event venues, need to be enforced. Public toilets and showers need to be sanitized and closely monitored. And critically important is the dissemination of factual information to the public at large.
Al Jazar: A Minimalist Approach
On Al Jazar Street in al Riyadh Khartoum, under a large white sign spelling out the word “Al Jazar” in big bold black-lined red letters, is a great little take out for a delicious kufta sandwich. As the namesake explicates, the enterprise is a byproduct…