This note was developed by the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities (CFE) in collaboration with the OECD Working Party for Urban Policy and the OECD Champion Mayors Initiative for Inclusive Growth. It is an update of the version released on 27 March, which expands the examples of measures taken by cities to respond to COVID-19 and provides analysis on issues related to the economic impact, density, resilience and collaboration with national governments. Short and medium term responses provided by cities are clustered around six categories: i) social distancing; ii) workplace and commuting; iii) vulnerable groups; iv) local service delivery; v) support to business; and vi) communication, awareness raising and digital tools. The note also includes new information on how cities are progressively exiting the lockdown and on lessons learned in terms of density, mobility and digitalisation. It concludes with action-oriented guidance to build back better cities, building on previous work on urban resilience. Annex A provides more detailed information on the inventoried city initiatives. Annex B maps efforts from selected organisations and city networks to collect city responses and foster knowledge and experience sharing. This is a working and living document, whose next version will be released by the end of June.

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With over 100 countries in lockdown, the COVID-19 pandemic brings with it the third and greatest economic, financial and social shock of the 21st century, after 9/11 and the global financial crisis of 2008. The OECD estimates that each month of confinement can result in a drop of two percentage points in annual GDP growth. For a confinement of three months with no offsetting measures, the drop could be 4 to 6 percentage points1. This systemic shock triggered a halt in global production, hitting supply chains across the world, a steep drop in consumption together with a collapse in confidence and, finally, a sharp decline in services that reflects the consequences of lockdowns and social distancing, especially in urban settings.

Over the past months, many stringent measures have been applied to contain the virus and minimise pressure on hospitals and healthcare infrastructure. Initially, the most urgent priority was to minimise the loss of life and health. However, the pandemic has also set in motion a major economic and social crisis. In light of the lockdown restrictions ending in many OECD countries, the initial short-term responses need to be combined with long-term recovery plans, which will require co-ordinated efforts across all levels of government and stakeholders to meet the challenge. International co-operation to exit the crisis has become even more relevant than ever and, in this regard, cities have an important role to play.

Since early March, the OECD has been collecting local policy responses aimed at containing the spread of the virus and protecting residents and local economies. This note provides an update of such measures including those related to the easing of lockdown restrictions. It includes an overview of lessons learned and the main challenges faced by cities in implementing restriction measures, such as territorial and digital divides. It also suggests a set of action-oriented recommendations to help rebuild better cities that can be resilient and future-proof in a post-COVID-19 world.

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Impact of COVID-19 on Cities

More than half of the global population live in cities, and this share is expected to rise to 70% by 2050. Cities may be better equipped than the rest of their country to respond to the COVID-19 crisis due to their well-developed health care facilities. However, cities are densely populated places where people live and gather, thus at risk of spreading the virus due to the close proximity among residents and challenges to implement social distancing. Large and secondary cities, in particular, often act as hubs for transnational business and movement, with the potential to amplify the pandemic through increased human contact. For example, in Japan, it is reported that a winter festival (Sapporo) and a live-music clubhouse (Osaka) became clusters from which COVID-19 spread to a large crowd2. Several religious gatherings in cities have also proved ripe for spreading the virus from Kuala Lumpur3 (Malaysia) to Daegu4 (Korea).

In addition, cities marked with inequalities and a high concentration of urban poor are potentially more vulnerable than those that are better resourced, less crowded and more equal. According to scholars, pandemics often emerge from the edge of cities since viral outbreaks are frequently incubated and transmitted via peri-urban communities and transportation corridors at the outskirts of cities before they spread into the downtown core5

Pollution levels, which are higher in cities, are also known to cause lung and heart damage6 and are responsible for at least 7 million early deaths a year7. Residents with pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma or chronic bronchitis, can be more vulnerable to COVID-19. This may have a more serious impact on city dwellers and those exposed to toxic fumes, than on others8.

The COVID-19 crisis may provide an opportunity for city dwellers and planners to rethink drastically, from the ground up, their consumption, production and travelling paradigm. To a certain extent “life after COVID-19” will be “life with COVID-19”, hence the need to rebuild cities long term, based on a new approach to urban spaces that takes better account of different needs, and shifts from a logic of mobility to one of accessibility to basic amenities and services. Key concepts such as the “circular economy”, the “localisation of the Sustainable Development Goals”, “tactical urbanism9” and “the 15-min city10” can all help achieve better quality of life while preserving productivity, social inclusion and the environment.

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Policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis in cities

As COVID-19 was spreading through cities around the world, with devastating impact on local communities and the wellbeing of residents, many local governments were at the frontline of combating the outbreak. While most national governments were taking the lead to minimise the spread of the virus, cities in many countries played an important role to complement responses to COVID-19 policy challenges on the ground. In many countries, the role of cities has been two-fold:

  • On the one hand, cities have acted as implementation vehicles of nation-wide measures such as the local support to and enforcement of the confinement measures, thanks to their resources and capacity (i.e. municipal police) or their local prerogatives (i.e. closure of public parks and gardens); and

  • On the other hand, cities have been spearheading more bottom-up, innovative responses while resorting to technology or other resources and building on their unique proximity to citizens (i.e. attention to vulnerable groups).

The examples collected from over 40 cities (accessible in Annex A) are clustered into six categories of policy responses (Figure 1), which have been deployed to varying degrees depending on the level of advancement of the pandemic:

  • Social distancing and confinement

  • Workplace practices and commuting patterns

  • Targeted measures for vulnerable groups

  • Local service delivery, notably water and waste

  • Support to business and economic recovery

  • Communication, awareness raising and digital tools

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Figure 1. Six categories of city policy responses to COVID-19
Figure 1. Six categories of city policy responses to COVID-19

From identified policy responses, some observations can be made in terms of urban resilience and capacity to recover from shocks:

  • City responses need to be interpreted and considered in light of the early or late stages of the pandemic in their country. In all cases, lessons learned can help to better cope with future, reduce their impact and plan for recovery;

  • Cities are not equal in their capacity to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, across and within countries. This uneven capacity depends on various factors including the allocation of public service delivery (i.e. health care tends to be more centralised), population size (cities of a smaller size seem to have paid greater attention to inclusion), regulatory frameworks, fiscal capacity or the infrastructure in place;

  • Cities are undertaking a wide range of place-based responses, from immediate measures to provide information, protect their citizens (i.e. hygiene), minimise social contacts and support businesses (i.e. finance) to measures targeting longer-term impact (i.e. workplace reforms);

  • To implement many of their COVID-19 responses, cities have relied on innovation and online/digital tools, with internet, smart phone applications and technologies playing a critical role for communication, awareness-raising, teleworking but also learning and skills development;

  • In the first stage, most actions were short-term, but some cities progressively shifted towards more mid-term responses, most notably to re-imagine public life and spark changes in the design and use of public spaces in cities to allow more space for micro-mobility of cyclists and pedestrians;

  • While compact cities have long been praised for their benefits, the COVID-19 crisis triggered a debate on the vulnerability of densely populated cities, due to the close proximity among residents, the difficulty in applying social distancing measures, and the need to think how cities can guarantee a safe urban compact environment with nearby access to basic services.

  • Supply chain disruptions, weakened exports and investments, as well as restricted travels for both business and tourism, are likely to affect cities in the medium and long term.

  • Many cities have understood that the pandemic and its aftermath can be turned into an opportunity to make cities more resilient, circular, smarter, and better connected with rural areas, via the way goods are produced, the energy consumed and transport and other services organised.

  • Regardless of the levels of decentralisation, there is always a need for cities to work with national governments to ensure effective implementation of nation-wide measures, or develop place-based responses in line with national frameworks and initiatives.

  • City-to-city cooperation during the pandemic within countries and beyond national borders has been a key to success for cities to deal with the pandemic. Peer-to-peer exchanges between cities create unity, solidarity and promote openness and transparency, while city networks are providing useful information on best practices to tackle the crisis and recover effectively, taking into account economic, social and environmental objectives.

Social distancing and confinement

Early policy responses

In the first stage of the pandemic, immediate responses consisted of enforcing social distancing and confinement measures such as:

  • Limiting all gatherings, cancelling or postponing events. Most cities have cancelled or postponed large gatherings. For example, Austin (US) cancelled the annual South by Southwest, a film and music festival scheduled in March that usually attracts over 400K participants for an economic impact of USD 355.9 million in 201911. Where large gatherings could not be cancelled or postponed (i.e. voting for the first round of municipal elections in France), hand washing facilities and sanitiser were provided and, venues were cleaned frequently. Many cities also secured supplies of masks and sanitiser gel. Sporting events have been called off or delayed, such as the Olympic Games in Tokyo (Japan), supposed to take place in the summer 2020. The cities of Milan (Italy) and Paris (France) were among the first ones to close all public parks to limit group outings and support the implementation of nation-wide measures related to the confinement12.

  • Closing city cultural facilities. Cultural facilities such as museums, concert halls and cinemas have been shut down. Buenos Aires (Argentina) City Hall took such decisions via a decree suspending recreational, social and cultural activities for more than 200 people, for an initial period of 30 days, which was then extended.13 Across many cities in the world including in France, similar measures have been taken to prohibit demonstrations, close cinemas, theatres, and restaurants.

  • Closing schools and universities. This has involved rescheduling semesters, postponing examinations and upscaling the provision of online learning tools and educational applications free of charge. Fukuoka (Japan) is providing educational movies for children who stay at home due to the closure of public schools14. Amongst other examples worldwide, the city of Moscow (Russian Federation) has set up a "Moscow Electronic School" so that pupils can follow their studies online15.

Easing restrictions

As of May 2020, many European cities have started to develop plans to support measures to progressively exit the lockdown. Most plans rely on a gradual and territorial approach whereby, according to the contagion numbers, restrictions on social gatherings and restart of economic activities are being eased. Decisions are taken at national and/or subnational level of governments depending on the institutional features of countries (federal, centralised).

  • In France, a map was developed and is regularly updated to classify the départements (red, orange and green) on the basis of the spread of the disease and the pressure on hospitals. In places classified as “red”, where the virus is deemed to have spread more and where more patients are putting pressure on hospital systems, measures easing lockdown restrictions will be implemented more cautiously than in those classified as “green”.

  • Austria has gradually relaxed the restrictions in force against COVID-19 after Easter. After the reopening of small businesses on April 14th, other stores and restaurants followed in May. Trips continued to be limited to essential cases until the end of April. Schools are expected to remain closed until mid-May, with higher education continuing online courses until the end of the academic year. Sporting and cultural events, and large public gatherings in general, will not be authorised before July at the earliest.

As the closest point of contact between citizens and government and as places where denser groups of population are found and can gather, cities are implementing the following actions to maintain social distancing, while going back to “normal”:

  • Distributing safety equipment. Many town halls are distributing facemasks and other protective equipment in light of measures easing lockdown. In some countries, such as France or Spain, it has become obligatory to wear facemasks in public transportation. In April, the city of Madrid (Spain), in collaboration with the national government, started to distribute masks at important nodes of public transportation16. The mayor of Paris (France) has committed to distribute 2 million cloth masks to city dwellers as of May 11th, channelled through borough town halls and pharmacies17.

  • Ensuring social distancing in schools. Mounting evidence shows that children can be asymptomatic vectors for the spread of COVID-1918. It is also challenging to ensure children effectively follow social distancing measures. Therefore, national and local governments are proceeding cautiously when reopening schools to ensure appropriate safety and hygiene measures. In Italy children will not return to elementary and secondary schools until the next academic year. In Spain, students from secondary school might be able to return19. Other countries have decided to reopen under strict social distancing measures. On April 15th, Denmark became the first country in the Western world to reopen its elementary schools. To limit the spread of infections, parents are not allowed inside school premises, teachers cannot gather in the staff room, each child has their own desk which must remain two metres away from their nearest neighbour20. France has implemented a voluntary return to schools only when and where social distancing requirements can be met, with a limit of 15 children per class. The city of Paris has announced that elementary schools will only welcome the children of health, emergency and city workers as of May 11th, although some schools were already welcoming children of health and other “essential” workers during the lockdown period. On May 14th, the “priority audience” would be enlarged to children of public transportation personnel, children with special needs and children in disadvantaged communities unable to follow courses online21.

Lessons learned on urban density

Compact cities have long been praised for their benefits, which include dense development patterns, better accessibility to local services and jobs, short intra urban distances and public transport systems with positive contributions to the efficiency of infrastructure investments, the reduction of energy consumption and CO2 emissions as well as knowledge diffusion and economic growth22. Even in the COVID-19 context, dense urban environments can provide quicker access to health and social services, create support networks to combat social isolation and make use of “social infrastructure” (i.e. community institutions) to alleviate the consequences of the pandemic. However, with COVID-19, debates have started to emerge on the vulnerability of densely populated cities and their likelihood to the spread of the virus, due to the close proximity among residents and the difficulty in applying social distancing measures.

Forthcoming analysis by the OECD with a focus on US cities will study the correlation between average growth rates of cases and deaths with both population size and density of functional urban areas (FUA). A functional approach is needed beyond the administrative boundaries of cities to account for travel-to-work flows between urban cores and hinterlands whose labour market is highly integrated with the cores. Indeed, as residents and workers interact in common functional spaces, the risk of contagion across adjacent municipalities is high and requires coordinated responses.

However, it is not density alone that make cities vulnerable to COVID-19, but the structural economic and social conditions of cities making them more or less able to implement effective policy responses. For instance, cities marked with inequalities, inadequate housing conditions and a high concentration of urban poor are potentially more vulnerable than those that are better resourced, less crowded and more equal.

  • In some Asian countries, early action (the implementation of teleworking and lockdown orders), and early testing and extensive tracing of COVID-19 cases have succeeded in avoiding large outbreaks in several hyper-dense cities such as Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo. Within these hyper-dense cities, in many of the affluent areas, people were able to shelter in place, work remotely, and have all of their food and other needs delivered to them, thereby reducing their exposure to the virus. Evidence from Chinese richer highly dense cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Tianjin, and Zhuhai had fewer confirmed cases due to the capacity to mobilise enough fiscal resources and the provision higher-grade facilities and services to their residents23.

  • On the other hand, in poorer higher-density suburbs, many are crammed together in multifamily, multi-generational households or in frontline service work in close physical proximity others or the public without adequate social distancing measures or protection, with greater exposure to the risk of infection. This density divide between rich and poor is also apparent in geographic breakdown of the virus across New York City: COVID-19 is hitting hardest not in dense Manhattan but in the less-dense outer boroughs, like the Bronx, Queens, and even far less dense Staten Island24. In Singapore, it is reported that the latest exponential spread of COVID-19 has emerged from high-density dormitories that house the many thousands of long-term foreign workers25. Moreover, people living in informal settlements are more vulnerable to be infected than those living in more adequate conditions. This was very clear in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where inefficient urban planning and inadequate housing are complicating the response to the crisis26.

Workplace practices and Commuting patterns

Early policy responses

In the first stage of the pandemic and during the confinement, many city governments had initially encouraged their staff to work from home before full teleworking regime was required for the country at large. Cities have put in place several measures, such as the following:

  • Applying teleworking or flexible working hours. One of the cities hit hardest and earliest by COVID-19, Milan (Italy) began encouraging residents to work from home from February 24th before the national confinement was put in place on March 10th27. In San Jose (US), municipal employees were encouraged to telework to set an example for city residents28. The Mayor of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) was among the first local leaders to encourage alternative work shift shifts; suggesting that the industry sector should start the first shift at 6 am, trade at 8 am, and the service sector at 10 am, in order to avoid overcrowding in transport. The municipal public sector adopted the same principle of scale and work at home29. The Prime Minister of Japan requested that companies allow their employees to work from home as much as possible to reduce people-to-people contact by 70%, and ideally, by 80%. Teleworking, rotation shifts, flexible working hours or utilising online meetings are also mentioned as “new lifestyle” in the recommendations by the Expert Meeting of Japanese Government, published on May 4th.

  • Urging local businesses to support telework and flexitime. In addition to promoting telework among municipal staff, Tokyo Metropolitan Government (Japan) encouraged private companies to introduce flexible working hours30 and took specific measures to support SMEs and other companies in this shift by providing subsidies for the introduction of necessary equipment and software required for teleworking. In Braga (Portugal), the municipal agency for economic development InvestBraga organised a webinar to help small businesses foster digital skills, such as e-commerce, remote working, and videoconferences. It also offers free consultancy on digital topics.

  • Applying testing for enhancing safety at work. From the onset of the epidemic, the city of Moscow (Russian Federation) advised workplaces to take employees temperatures and prevent those with signs of illness (fever, cough or difficulty breathing) from coming to work and rather go home or search for medical treatment31. Daegu Metropolitan City (Korea) launched 'drive-thru' COVID-19 testing facilities to cope with the fast rise in demand for tests. These facilities allow medical staff to test citizens directly in their car. The first "drive corona" was opened in Paris (France) in late March in the courtyard of the 17th arrondissement town hall, allowing healthcare professionals to be tested for COVID-19 without having to get out of their car on an appointment-based basis32). Soliciting a test in one’s car is much quicker and safer for patients and healthcare workers than visiting a hospital or a health centre. The test takes about 10 minutes and the results, in the case of Daegu, are sent via text message within three days.

  • Reorganising and disinfecting transport services. Proximity of commuters in public transport plays a pivotal role in the spread of COVID-19. This risk is particularly high in cities, where commuters are often packed into busy trains or buses at peak times. In the first stage of the pandemic and in line with national directives to limit commuting, many cities and metropolitan regions progressively moved towards reduced services and local governments urged individuals to limit non-essential travel and put in place hygiene measures on public transport, such as disinfection. Fukuoka (Japan) has been publishing information on subway congestion levels by time slot on the city’s website33. Public transport stations and vehicles in San Francisco (US) have sanitiser available and are more frequently cleaned34. In Venice (Italy), canal boats went through extraordinary disinfection in the early stage of the pandemic. Naples (Italy) ensured suitable preventive measures to protect employees and users, by cleaning and disinfecting passenger compartments of trains and buses and visibly displaying to the user the appropriate disinfection certification35. In Moscow (Russian Federation), random temperature checks are conducted at the entrance to the metro through a non-contact method36. In Madrid (Spain), direct contacts are minimised by the fact that most trains (64%) are equipped with automatically opening doors37. The city has also reorganised its bus routes based on the variations in demand, by reducing the lines serving the Universities or the express line to the airport, but maintaining nocturnal buses. EMT (service provider) also maintains a daily deep disinfection plan for their fleet38. Bratislava (Slovak Republic) was one of the first European cities making it compulsory to wear a protective facemask when travelling on public transport. The transport authority has also banned entering or exiting through the front doors closest to the driver. Doors open automatically, so passengers do not need to push any buttons39.

Easing restrictions

The pandemic has revolutionised the way people travel and work. In the short-term, the pandemic has forced companies and cities to adopt remote working policies when possible so that people could stay at home to stop the spread of the virus. After the easing of restrictions, employees may continue teleworking, when and where possible, to avoid large groupings of people in offices and in public transport, at least until a vaccine is discovered. The ILO has warned that without control measures to ensure that workplaces meet strict health and safety criteria, countries are at very high risk of a rebound in infection numbers40.Some examples of measures taken in the workplace to mitigate the risk of a second wave of contagion include:

  • Continuing teleworking & staggering work hours. National, regional and local governments are urging companies to maintain telework whenever possible. In other cases, local governments are both implementing and recommending staggering work hours both to prevent crowded commutes, and gatherings in workplaces41. The Ile-de-France region (France) is negotiating a charter with businesses, social partners, local governments and the public transportation sector with suggestions to stagger arrival and departure times in businesses. Employees would arrive in shifts between 5.30 am and 6.30 am, 6.30 am - 7.30 am, 7.30 am - 8.30 am, 8.30 am - 9.30 am and 9.30 am - 10.30 am42.

  • Making sure citizens can move safely. Some cities have started implementing transportation and mobility plans that encourage cycling or walking to minimise the risk of transportation for those non-essential workers returning physically to their place of work after confinement. New York (US) has committed to opening up 100 miles of streets for socially responsible recreation during the COVID-19 crisis43. Paris (France) committed to roll out 50 km of emergency bike lanes during and after the lockdown, including a number of pop-up “corona cycleways”44. Toronto (Canada) has created bigger sidewalks in a few places by blocking off sections of the curb lane so those on foot can spread out safely onto the road45. Other efforts seek to minimise the spread of the virus in public transportation by increasing the frequency of trains and buses.

Lessons learned

An important lesson from the COVID-19 crisis, largely driven by a combination of the “Zoom effect”’ and “Greta effect”, is that teleworking is compatible with productivity and largely contributes to reducing negative environmental externalities. Going forward, it is likely that there will be a “new normal” whereby many employees and companies will leverage the potential of teleworking and adjust their mobility patterns where appropriate and possible. In fact, polls have shown that citizens maintain new work and travel habits after transportation crises. For example, after the 2014 London transport strikes, researchers from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge have identified that, even after the resumption of normal traffic, 5% of passengers retained their new routes and modes of transport46. More recently, a poll in Belgium indicated that up to 90% employees would like to continue teleworking after the current restrictions are lifted and everyone can go back to work47. Some lessons learned for teleworking, mobility and environment are summarised below:

Teleworking. People and places are unequal regarding teleworking. While some workers can reduce their exposure to the risk of contagion by teleworking, or benefit from preventive measures, many cannot because of the nature of their job, pre-existing inequalities or digital divide. Firstly, 61% of the world’s employed population (2 billion workers) are in informal employment48 and are more likely to be exposed to health and safety risks without appropriate protection, such as masks or hand disinfectants. Secondly, not everyone can work from home. Due to the nature of their jobs, in the United States, less than 30% of workers can work from home, and the ability to work from home differs enormously by race and ethnicity but also across places49. A forthcoming note by the OECD shows strong regional disparities within OECD in terms of ability to telework with, on average, 50% of jobs in Luxembourg, 40% in France and 21% in Turkey being compatible with this working modality. Finally, many workers do not have stable broadband internet connection at home or businesses do not have the means to provide their employees with the technology needed to telework.

Mobility has been strongly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and provided cities with a momentum to rethink their approach towards urban space and suggest alternative options. For example, cities have been promoting cycling as one of the favoured options for the post-confinement period as part of the tactical urbanism movement. Claudia Lopez, Mayor of Bogota (Colombia), recently announced an additional 35 km of cycleways, adding to the 550 km of cycleways already secured by an ambitious and proactive policy since the 1970s50. The Mayor of Milan (Italy) also announced that the city would retrofit 22 miles of streets over the summer to post-COVID-19 pedestrian use for cycling and walking51. This is particularly welcome since Lombardy is one of the most polluted regions of Europe. These bold commitments towards micro and clean forms of urban mobility have inspired many other cities in the world. In Paris (France) Mayor Hidalgo has committed to pursuing a policy to restrict the use of cars, adding 50 km of roadways dedicated to cyclists and making 30 streets pedestrian only52. The Département Seine Saint-Denis and the Region Ile-de-France have both announced the reorganisation of hundreds of kilometres of roads over in May. In Chicago (US), the Department of Transportation is working with the city’s bike share partner, Divvy, to offer steeply discounted memberships during the months of the crisis53. In Berlin (Germany), the districts of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain introduced pop-up bike lanes as a creative solution to ensure social distancing during essential travel while preventing an increase in single car use. An expansion of the scheme to further roads in the city is planned for the coming weeks54.

Environment. Reduced transport has had a positive impact on air quality during the confinement in many cities of the world. Global levels of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant linked to cars, have hit a record low, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (FT). The City of Madrid (Spain) registered a 14% drop in rush-hour traffic after the first days of confinement55. Air pollution in Chinese cities has dropped by 10 to 30% as a result of the confinement, which is particularly welcome since 1 million persons die from air pollution each year in China56. Compared with 2019, levels of pollution in New York (US) have decreased by nearly 50% because of measures to contain the virus57. Pollution levels, which are higher in cities, are cause to lung and heart damage and are responsible for at least 7 million early deaths a year58. In the 3,000 cities that monitor air pollution globally, more than 80% of residents are exposed to air quality levels that exceed the World Health Organization’s limits59. Residents with pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma or chronic bronchitis, can be more vulnerable to COVID-19. This may have a more serious impact on city dwellers and those exposed to toxic fumes, than on others60. Cities are also observing a sharp drop in CO2 emissions. New York City (US), for instance, has seen a 38% reduction of CO2 emissions from the pre-pandemic level. In Europe, it is reported that daily carbon emissions have declined by 58% during lockdowns, with emissions from cars and motorcycles down by 88%. Globally, CO2 emissions are expected to fall by 8% this year, according to the International Energy Agency61.

Supporting businesses and economic recovery

OECD metropolitan areas account for 60% of the total GDP in the OECD area, 59% of employment and 55% of the total OECD population62. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, many cities have suspended economic and commercial activities, with the exception of essential activities such as supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, insurance and the postal service.

Economic impact of the crisis

While it is still early to measure the economic impact of COVID-19 on cities, some cities have started to make projections as a tool for decision-making:

  • The Montreal Metropolitan Community (Canada) published an analysis of the impact of the pandemic on the metropolitan economy showing that COVID-19 is expected to cause a marked but temporary contraction in the economy of Greater Montreal in the second quarter of 2020. The social distancing required to avoid infection and reduce mortality will slow economic activity by notably immobilising the sectors where personal contact is most pronounced: retail businesses, personal services, passenger transport (especially air and public transport). Supply chain disruptions and recessions among major trading partners will weaken exports, investment and tourism in the medium term63.

  • An initial estimate of expected economic impact in Amsterdam (The Netherlands) is significant, due to the type of industry in Amsterdam (i.e. touristic sector). Though numbers have not been confirmed, it is estimated that the economic fallout of EUR 1.6 billion per month, if the crisis continues, and a 1.5-2.8% decrease in growth, instead of the 2.3% growth originally expected64.

  • An impact study of confinement on the job market in Madrid (Spain)65 estimates that after two months of confinement, the city of Madrid would lose 60 500 direct jobs, a figure that could reach 108 000 if counting indirect employment. This represents 5.4% of total employment. The breakdown by sector of the data places hospitality as the most affected sector (31.8%, with 19 227 fewer jobs) followed by retail trade (11.3%, with 6 850 fewer jobs), personal services (5.6%, which means 3 425 fewer jobs) and culture (2.5%, with 1 497 fewer jobs).

  • The City of Reykjavík (Iceland) established a team responsible for estimating the economic impact on the city’s finance related to the crisis, and preparing actions for the financial protection of both the city’s basic services, local businesses and citizens66.

  • A survey of municipalities across the country from the National League of Cities and U.S. Conference of Mayors conducted in the first seven days of April found that the vast majority expect a revenue shortfall. Reduced spending at stores and restaurants equate to less sales tax revenue, which is one of the most significant ways cities fund services in cities. New York City (US) expects to lose USD 7.4 billion in tax revenue across two fiscal years while Los Angeles (US) may lose anywhere from USD 425 million to USD 829 million in the same period67. In Phoenix (US), more than 30% of the city's revenue comes from sales taxes related to retail sales, tourism and entertainment. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Phoenix was projecting a USD 28 million surplus for the upcoming fiscal year. Now, it is anticipating a USD 26 million deficit as an optimistic estimate of COVID-19's impact on Phoenix's budget. The deficit was calculated assuming the full impact of the pandemic only lasts until July. If it lasts until October, Phoenix would face a USD 56 million deficit. If it continues through December, the impact would grow to USD 79 million. If it lasts until June 2021, the deficit will top USD 100 million68.

Short and medium term measures

While national governments around the world announced measures to protect their economies from the enormous economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis, city administrations also have a role to play in supporting small and medium enterprises, providing financing to help the less fortunate and empowering businesses to be in the strongest position possible to bounce back from the crisis, through:

  • Consulting services to SMEs: Bilbao (Spain) has implemented specific measures aimed at supporting entrepreneurs, small retailers and SMEs through an urgent consultancy service organised by the City Council, which offers telephone and online assistance69. The processing of all tax procedures has been postponed. Yokohama (Japan) established a special consulting office for small and medium sized enterprises as early as January 30th70. In Seattle (US) several initiatives of digital service providers offer help to small businesses71. Lisbon (Portugal) has created a support team for micro, small and medium-sized companies to ensure information on all existing support reaches these companies, as well as consultancy, to mitigate the effects of the crisis and promote economic recovery. The team will include specialists in the various areas72. Paris (France) promotes weekly exchanges with professional unions, trade associations and economic partners73.

  • Allocating funds: The Mayor of Milan (Italy) announced the establishment of a mutual aid fund to help those most in need and to support recovery of city activities. The fund, in addition to the allocation of 3 million EUR already approved by the City Council, is open to the economic participation of individual citizens, companies and associations. The fund raised 800 000 EUR on the first day (March 14th, 2020)74. King County (US) has joined forces with philanthropic organisations to establish a relief fund, and created a donations connector page for people to request what they need and give what they can75. Seattle (US) made available relief funds of large tech companies76.

  • Providing tax breaks: Madrid (Spain) City Council has approved 63 million EUR tax breaks on receipts from the Economic Activities Tax and the taxes for leisure, hospitality and commercial establishments, travel agencies and department stores, on the condition that they keep workers jobs until the end of year77.The City of Montréal (Canada) is offering emergency financial support and is taking measures to help businesses. Assistance measures include postponement of municipal taxes, emergency financial assistance and an automatic moratorium on capital and interest78. Seattle (US) announced it is waiving financial penalties for businesses that pay their taxes late79. Braga (Portugal) is applying a total exemption of city taxes for occupation of public space, terraces and advertising for all local business closed to the public. InvestBraga, is giving assistance to the business community regarding social security requirements, technical guidance on business incentives and special assistance to tourism companies80.

  • Providing Loans. New York City (US) has put in place local support for SMEs, including zero-interest loans repayable over 15 to 20 years for firms with under 100 employees, for loans up to USD 75 000, conditional on demonstrating a 25% decrease in customer receipts. Tokyo (Japan) has set up one-time payment for SMEs that are taking steps to prevent the further spread of the virus, such as suspending the use of their facilities. In addition, an emergency loan programme and free consulting services were put in place for SMEs affected by the crisis81. In Buenos Aires (Argentina), the public bank, Banco Ciudad, launched a new loan program with the aim of providing funds to small and medium-sized enterprises for the payment of their payrolls. All loan schemes show a significant reduction in interest rates with a range of between 20% and 24% of the nominal annual rate82.

  • Giving subsidies and support to VAT holders. Tokyo (Japan) is providing subsidies for small and medium sized enterprises to support the costs of installing necessary equipment and software required to promote teleworking83. Milan (Italy) has implemented a programme called “Partita AttIVA”, which gives economic support to Value Added Tax (VAT) holders to facilitate professional training and material (i.e. professional equipment, machinery, etc.) and investments for the development of their business (i.e. software)84.

  • Granting commercial rent and fiscal exemptions. Paris (France) has developed schemes to back up and support economic agents such as freezing rents, road, terrace and other municipal taxes for closed business and NGOs85. Lisbon (Portugal) has also given a full exemption from rent payments for all commercial establishments in municipal spaces (municipal council or companies), which are closed, and all social, cultural, sporting and recreational institutions installed in municipal spaces, until June 30th, 202086. Porto (Portugal) has implemented an exemption from rent payments by merchants, who hold a commercial lease agreement for municipal or local properties intended for storage87. It has also implemented exceptional advance payments to cultural agents (up to a maximum limit of 75%), thus offering solid guarantees so that these agents can also resist and overcome the current difficult circumstances88. Viano do Castelo (Portugal) has provided an exemption from the payment of rents for companies located in the Praia Norte Business Park and the Business Incubator in April and May. On March 26th, the Reykjavík (Iceland) City Council unanimously agreed on an Emergency Plan of Action as an initial response to the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan contains 13 measures, including deferral of fees, increased scope of flexibility for homes and businesses, and a reduction in real estate fees89.

  • Supporting local production and distribution. Vila Nova de Famalicao (Portugal) has developed a marketplace for local commerce, in conjunction with economic entities and a program to encourage the consumption of local products. It is also promoting local distribution and supply chains in partnership with cooperatives, companies, distributors, restaurants, supermarket trade. It has created a helpline to answer questions about national measures for companies and for the local employment exchange90. Paris (France) helps connect independent businesses and logistic entities to deliver goods, and supports the agricultural sector and next-door distribution circuits by allowing local farmer associations (AMAPs) to keep delivering and maintaining some open markets91. Sydney (Australia) has published a draft of the Central Sydney Planning Strategy to contribute to the post-COVID-19 recovery and future livelihoods, by, among other elements, favouring local employment92.

Coordination with national governments

The pandemic has seen countries rolling out ambitious recovery packages to protect their economy and people, which require cooperation and collaboration across levels of government. Furthermore, national decision-makers have had to make use of their legal prerogatives to ensure that local authorities have the right amount of flexibility in their working processes to act efficiently. For example:

  • In the United Kingdom strong coordination between cities, local authorities and national government has been crucial in the fight against the pandemic, and a set of funding schemes have been established to help small businesses. In order to get these funds to businesses as quickly as possible, they are being channelled through local authorities. 13 billion GBP (over 15 billion EUR) are being made available as grants and not as loans.

  • In Spain, territorial policy has been reformed to allow local authorities to hold virtual meetings and to allow municipalities to be able to use their budgetary surpluses specifically with COVID-19. The autonomy given to municipalities to have their own responses, in complement also to the innovation developed by civil society and NGOs. The Spanish Federation of Cities and Provinces (FEMP) is playing an important role in the management of this crisis and has been gathering regularly with the government to draft agreements for the post-pandemic, including economic ones93.

  • In Turkey, the national government has announced direct financial aid for regions. Local agencies are also proposing measures and providing financial support to SMEs and other relevant institutions. Pandemic boards have been established in each city to monitor the measures and take additional ones if necessary, ensuring the continuity of local public services.

Continuity of local public services

To varying degrees, OECD countries have allocated increasingly complex and resource-intensive competences to lower levels of government. As such, cities are suppliers of basic services, including drinking water supply, sewage collection, wastewater treatment, and solid waste management. Under the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2020, a “New Leipzig Charta” will be adopted on pandemics and crisis management, with a stronger focus on resilience, digitisation and the common good (i.e. equal access, availability and good design of services of general interest and critical infrastructures).

Waste and water services

During the COVID-19 crisis, volumes of unrecyclable waste have risen (i.e. plastic gloves, disposable masks, paper bags, etc.). Medical masks and gloves are washing up on beaches in Hong Kong because of improper disposal, while residential volumes are expected to increase approximately 30% in North America, as residents forced to remain home and excess material obtained through panic purchasing94. In Ireland, household waste quantities have increased by 20% to 30%95.

In many parts of the world, cities are making sure people remain connected to basic services, such as water supply, even in situations where supply is not continuative for structural and contingent reasons. Many cities and utilities have agreed to suspend utility shutoffs for residents who are unable to afford their bills, as local leaders scramble to tackle the complex public health threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is especially important considering the main and most important preventative measure to combat the spread of the virus is handwashing and overall general hygiene. In Detroit (US), water services are to be temporarily restored to thousands of households previously disconnected due to unpaid bills amid a public health outcry96. Seven states in the US – Wisconsin, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Louisiana – have mandated a halt to shutoffs97. The local government of Alora (Spain) has eliminated water charges during the next quarter for those establishments that remain closed to the public because of the confinement established by the State98. In France, many cities are implementing measures to make sure people have running water in a time of heightened need for hygiene99. Porto (Portugal) has provided a partial exemption on water, sanitation and urban waste tariffs between April 1st and June 30th for non-domestic customers whose are totally or partially closed due to the Government Decree, and/or whose activities experienced an abrupt or sharp drop in at least 40% of turnover100. Lima (Peru) also seeks to guarantee the supply of drinking water to the most vulnerable areas of the city, beginning with the delivery of ten cisterns of drinking water101. In Braga (Portugal), water and sanitation fees have been dropped for all customers102.

Cities also seek to continue to guarantee solid waste collection, but not necessarily separated for specific types of waste. Public health agencies, such as in the United Kingdom, recommend that all waste that has been in contact with any self-isolated individual should be double-bagged and tied to prevent the spread of COVID-19103. On-demand waste collection (bulky waste, garden waste, etc.) has been suspended until further notice in the cities of Luxembourg104 and Newark (US)105. In Poland, the five largest municipal solid waste managing organisations appealed to the government to warn about the lack of regulations in waste management sector in the case of a pandemic106. The city of Kingston (Canada) cancelled its Household Hazardous Waste service107. In Lima (Peru), garbage collection has been guaranteed in the city centre and the municipality is providing aid to other local governments108. AGERE, the municipal water and waste management company of Braga (Portugal), provided small businesses with an exemption of the entire fixed component of the urban waste tariff and a reduction of 25% for all commercial clients109.

Public procurement

Public procurement processes play a key role in the provision of a number of services to citizens where local governments have core competencies. The COVID-19 pandemic has an impact on current and future contracts of local governments and thus, on the provision of services. It has also created new safety, sanitation, and digital needs that local governments have to meet. Indeed, while local governments are not always in charge of providing healthcare, the provision of other services requires the procurement of specific equipment to ensure the safety of people providing those services. For instance, the provision of security services during the epidemic requires specific equipment for the police including masks and protective gloves. The city of San Francisco (US) announced on March 23rd the procurement of one million N-95 personal protective masks from the state, which have been put to use by front line workers110. Cities like Rome (Italy) are sanitising public spaces and streets with seven tanker trucks of the ‘’Giardini’’ Service being used and the procurement of appropriate products111. Madrid (Spain) procured 10,000 tests for its ‘essential’ officials as of March 25th112.

Many countries have issued decrees or other legal documents to make public procurement rules more flexible for all contracting authorities, as the COVID-19 crisis required immediate responses from countries to ensure the continuity of public services. Depending on the administrative organisation of each country, it could be national framework or subnational/ local government’s frameworks. On March 30th, Mexico City (Mexico) issued a decree for extraordinary actions to fight the COVID-19 pandemic providing more flexible rules in public procurement processes, including the possibility for direct award113. In France, an order confers on local governments the powers that deliberative assemblies can usually delegate to them. These powers include decisions regarding public procurement activities114.

The COVID-19 pandemic also highlighted the need to enhance coordination between public entities and different levels of government. As in many countries, in Italy and the United States, local, regional and national levels of governments are competing for the procurement for personal protective equipment, including masks, which led to significant increase of prices115.

Specific measures have been adopted to support suppliers of public entities, including local governments. These include, advanced payments, no application of penalties, reduced payment deadlines:

  • Copenhagen (Denmark) is paying invoices to suppliers in advance to improve company liquidity, shortening payment from 30 days to 2 weeks116.

  • The municipality of Milan (Italy) has simplified the payment of public procurement contracts for companies working in the construction sectors. This includes providing advanced payments to companies and reducing the payment deadline117

  • Barcelona (Spain) issued a mayoral decree on disruptions to municipal public procurement ensures the continuity of public contracts, the liquidity of providers, particularly SMEs, and strives to maintain jobs118.

  • In Paris (France), the city government decided to rely on a network of thirty social companies to produce two million reusable masks based on technical specifications published by AFNOR, the national organisation for standardisation119.

Targeted measures for vulnerable groups

In recognising that the COVID-19 epidemic is likely to hit vulnerable communities the hardest, cities have taken measures to mitigate the impact on fragile members of society. Cities are particularly well positioned to play this role, as they are closer to citizens and can better understand local needs. Vulnerable groups include those who may be physically and economically more exposed to the pandemic. The elderly, those with pre-existing health conditions and those without shelter or homes to isolate in, are more prone to contracting the illness and developing serious symptoms. City administrations are working to protect those who are most disadvantaged with targeted social policies to help the elderly, the sick and the homeless and other categories of vulnerable groups

Homeless people

The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the conditions of homeless people and called for specific measures, consisting in offering shelters, services and basic goods:

  • In New York City (US), at least 460 people experiencing homelessness have tested positive and 27 have died due to COVID-19 in the city. The Mayor announced that 6 000 individuals would be relocated to hotel rooms120.

  • In California (US), with an estimated 150,000 homeless people, the plan is to make hotel rooms available for more than 50 000 people121.

  • In Toronto (Canada), at least 135 people experiencing homelessness have contracted the virus122. The city has created an “isolation centre” so that people without homes can safely stay away from others while waiting for test results and has also booked hotel rooms that people who typically use the shelter system can stay in if they need to self-isolate for 14 days123.

  • Montreal (Canada) announced measures to support the homeless such as improving shelter services, chemical toilets, sanitary products, food assistance and continuing winter measures. The City is working with several partners to find spaces that could become homeless shelters124.

  • In Bilbao (Spain) spaces have been organised for care of the homeless, migrants or unaccompanied minors.125 Municipal sport halls are fitted with beds to provide social accommodation, if necessary.

  • Oakland (US) has expanded sanitation services for unsheltered residents126.

  • Paris (France) has been mapping fragile and isolated populations127 and opened, jointly with the State and NGOs, 14 gymnasiums for homeless people. Through the “Fabrique de la Solidarité”, a call for volunteers, has been circulated for volunteers wishing to help homeless people. In less than a week, more than 1 000 Parisians participated in social patrols, in preparation and distribution of meal packs. Local aid networks, via platform, have been created enabling Parisians in need of help to connect with those willing to assist them in their building or neighbourhood, while abiding with lockdown and recommended health measures.

  • Bratislava (Slovakia) launched the construction of a quarantine town with the support of professional, medical and social staff that will serve its population of 4 000 homeless people for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis128.

  • The United Kingdom government has provided funds to cities and local authorities to accommodate homeless people in hotels. Over 90% of rough sleepers have been taken care of through this initiative. Bristol City Council and other partners from across different sectors in the city have set up a new group looking at homelessness and move on accommodation as the city recovers. In the response to COVID-19, a significant number of homeless people have been offered hotel accommodation to ensure they remain safe. While providing such responses, many local governments are facing a range of obstacles: overcrowding in shelters and relocation centres, lack of funds, maintaining staff and volunteer safety and filling supply shortages. Homeless populations are overall difficult to track and test to prevent transmission. As such, officials in many cities fear that current figures of homeless in need for help are painting an incomplete picture. On the other hand, the pandemic can provide the opportunity for social policies to have a positive and more permanent impact on homelessness.

Migrants and refugees

There is a high risk that the pandemic exacerbates current vulnerabilities of the world's refugees and internally displaced people. Travel bans, closed borders and living conditions in camps all amplify the risks to migrants. This pandemic is also on track to exacerbate the vulnerabilities of some of the 272 million international migrants worldwide. People displaced internally and across borders are particularly at risk. In addition, the majority of the world's 25.9 million refugees and 41.3 million internally displaced persons are in developing countries that are only just starting to be affected by the pandemic129. In Singapore, more than 20% of the population are foreign workers, with a vast majority that have work permits and work in low-wage jobs. Many of these migrants come from Bangladesh and India to work in construction, shipping, manufacturing and domestic service sectors. The breakdown of nationalities among the confirmed cases shows that workers from these countries have been disproportionately affected130.

Migrants living in camps at the doorstep of Europe or the US face the possibility of a devastating virus outbreak given their proximity to highly affected countries and their often cramped living conditions, coupled with already stretched healthcare services. The virus is already endangering the lives of many in countries that host a large number of displaced persons, such as Jordan, Lebanon, Syria or Bangladesh. In these cases, social isolation within resettlement camps are not enforceable. More generally, the lockdown of some countries is impacting on state services, slowing down both migration processing and assistance provided to asylum seekers. Some essential migrant support services are simply being closed until further notice due to the prohibition of social gatherings.

Targeted measures in cities directed specifically to migrants and refugees include:

  • Securing access to public services. Rabat (Morocco) aims to carry out educational follow-up with migrant minors131. Milan’s Social Policies Directorate (Italy) produced a report on irregular migrants during COVID-19 emergency132 detailing what services they continue to offer. New York City (US) issues ID cards for all its residents, irrespective of their migration status, to secure access to diverse services (an initiative that existed prior to the COVID-19 crisis). Dusseldorf (Germany) rehoused several refugees and is now using a refugee centre as a quarantine station133.

  • Offering housing. San Francisco’s (US) COVID-19 Data Tracker displays information updated on a daily basis about the City’s ongoing efforts to provide temporary alternative housing for priority vulnerable populations and frontline workers134. A total of 2 741 beds are now available in private hotels rooms as well other types of facilities, among which more than half are directed to homeless people. In London (UK), about 300 rooms located in two Intercontinental hotels have been transformed into shelters for vulnerable people already known to homelessness charities as part of an initial trial135. The rooms have been booked at discounted rate for the next 12 weeks. In order to avoid beneficiaries using public transport, the mayor’s team is working with cab drivers who have volunteered to transport people between support services. Similarly, the city of Stuttgart (Germany) is creating over 300 places for accommodation and care as a precautionary measure. The rented buildings are spread over several city districts. Among the first users are refugees and migrants136. Between 8 000 and 10 000 foreign agricultural workers reside in the Portuguese city of Odemira. The mayor has prepared a prevention plan for quarantine that takes into account the need to prevent transmission within this population. This includes making public infrastructure available with sanitation services and being able to feed up to 500 migrants working in agriculture.

  • Limiting the economic impact of the pandemic: New York City (US) announced a partnership with Open Society Foundations to establish the New York City COVID-19 Immigrant Emergency Relief programme, to ensure all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, are included in citywide COVID-19 response and relief efforts. Across the world, several localities have created funds to help low-income families who have been economically impacted by COVID-19 pay rent or other expenses. The funds created by Austin137 and Washington DC138 in the United States specifically prioritise undocumented families.

On average in the OECD, nearly two-thirds of migrants settle in mostly metropolitan, densely populated regions. Evidence from a recent OECD report139 shows that attitudes towards migrants tend to be more positive in places where unemployment of native-people is lower. However, the post-COVID-19 period will likely be marked by an increase in unemployment, notably in cities. Therefore, mayors could seize the opportunity of ensuring that they will be able to rely on a continuous positive perception to maintain measures supporting migrants over time. Another lesson from OECD work on local integration of migrants is the importance and the difficulty of communicating on this subject for policy-makers. Mayors could carry out surveys and collect evidence on the role of migrants and refugees can in addressing the pandemic, invest in communication campaigns and make visible the importance of jobs mainly occupied by migrants or people with migrant (i.e. health services, home care, cashiers, carriers). This approach, based on being aware of the benefits of migrants’ work on the overall society, could help fight segregation and enhance social cohesion at the local level.

Elderly people

Elderly people are considered to be amongst the most vulnerable to the pandemic. Cities have implemented measures to protect them, offer medical support and adapt commercial activities to their needs.

  • San Jose (US) has been mapping individuals aged 50+ with chronic conditions, who need to be sheltered or isolated, as well as expanding shelter capacity and keeping usually seasonal homeless shelters open140.

  • Vienna (Austria) converted an exhibition hall into a large-scale care room. The room is on offer for people with mild COVID-19 symptoms who do not need to go to hospital, but who have difficulty caring for themselves at home. The care centre provides food and basic medical care141.

  • Bilbao (Spain) is collaborating with citizens to protect vulnerable members of the community, especially the elderly. Citizens are asked to contact Municipal Social Services if they identify local situations of loneliness, difficulties in meeting basic needs or lack of family or social support. Additional spaces have been organised for care of the homeless, migrants or unaccompanied minors142. Municipal sport halls are fitted with beds to provide social accommodation, if necessary. The City Council has made around 27 000 phone calls to people over 65 year old to check their state of health and mood, their situation (loneliness, level of autonomy) and to enquire if they need any service from the municipality.

  • Yokohama (Japan), distributed half a million-stored surgical masks to the elderly and child welfare institutions143.

  • Like the rest of France, Toulouse has forbidden all visits to nursing homes. Restaurants and cafeterias for the elderly have been closed, but a delivery service has been enacted to provide meals directly to the homes of elderly residents144. In many French municipalities (often of small size), such as Angerville in the region Ile de France, municipal agents call citizens above 65 year-old three times a week in case they might need basic support145.

  • Bratislava (Slovak Republic) has established a dedicated free of charge Senior Citizens phone line to serve the most vulnerable with delivering food, medication or providing social contact.

  • Lima (Peru) has developed an online voluntary register for elderly citizens, as well as a telephone line to provide information regarding COVID-19 prevention measures and medical and psychological counselling.

  • In Reykjavík (Iceland), many shops open one hour early, reserving that time only for the elderly and others at increased risk.

  • Viana do Castelo (Portugal) has created a volunteer’s pool to ensure the distribution of meals, medicines and personal protective equipment and a support line, provided by psychologists, for the Elderly and Loneliness.

  • In Spain, vulnerable people who need to go outside accompanied by a caregiver and those over 70 years of age may do so between 10 am and 12 am and between 7 pm and 8 pm.

  • The Home Care Institution in Ljubljana (Slovenia) is now offering the elderly and their families free therapeutic/consultative support via telephone that would contribute to the increased independence of the elderly in their home environment. Occupational therapists are available for counselling free of charge via telephone from Monday to Friday, between 8 am and 3 pm.

  • The municipality of Sultanbeyli (Turkey) carries out activities for people aged over 65, such as delivering them hot meals twice a day, disinfecting their homes and providing basic needs such as cleaning, market and pharmacy shopping146.

  • Buenos Aires (Argentina) has created a voluntary citizen-based support network for the elderly population (+70) “Mayores Cuidados” with the objective to i) provide support to elderly people via phone through daily calls, and ii) help them with shopping (i.e. food or medicine) or taking pets for a walk.

Poor and low wage workers

The public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic carries both health and economic implications. People who work in certain industries, such as restaurants, hospitality, retail, and other service industries, are particularly at risk for loss of income. Those who maintain jobs amid the COVID-19 outbreak, such as health care workers, grocery store workers, and delivery drivers, are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 as they have higher exposure to other individuals. Many of these workers are low-wage workers and will have limited ability to absorb income declines or afford health care costs147. Research suggests that those in lower economic strata are also more likely to be infected because of the higher rates of chronic health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease148. The pandemic thus exposes them to a double economic and health threat.

Measures such as postponing rental payments are allowing cities to provide some relief. Examples of such initiatives are hereinafter summarised:

  • Chicago (US) has introduced a new ordinance to bar employer retaliation against or firing of workers that comply with the stay home order during the COVID-19 crisis149.

  • New York City (US) has temporarily declared it illegal to drastically increase prices, which helps ensure access for those with lower incomes150.

  • New Orleans (US) received a State grant of USD 10.4 million for affordable housing in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The grant money will go toward nine affordable rental housing projects that might have lost funding due to the crisis. The city is also providing rental and utility assistance to impacted low-income households, and is implementing a Tenant Based Rental Assistance Program which will provide payments to make up the difference between the amount a household can afford to pay for housing and the rent standard151.

  • San Francisco (US) has declared a moratorium on residential evictions related to financial impacts caused by COVID-19 to prevent any resident from being evicted due to a loss of income from business closure, loss of hours or wages, layoffs, or out-of-pocket medical costs caused by COVID-19152.

  • The City Council of Sintra (Portugal) has suspended all rents to be paid by inhabitants of social housing and non-profit associations (IPSS’s, Sports and Cultural Associations) until June 30th 2020. Together, these measures will protect approximately 1 700 families and 70 associations153.

  • On April 9th, the City of Paris (France) provided families paying the lowest canteen rates with an exceptional aid of 50 to 150 EUR per month (and an extra 50 EUR for the second and third child only). It will benefit 28 579 Parisian families, i.e. 52 000 children154.

  • The City of Lisbon (Portugal) has suspended rent payments in all municipal houses until June 30th, 2020. This measure covers 24 000 families and 70 000 people in total. After that date, the amount that was not charged can be paid within 18 months, without interest or penalties. At any time, households may request a reassessment of the value of the rent, due to a decrease in household income, unemployment or a drop in income. Lisbon has also reinforced the social emergency fund aimed at families and social institutions, as well as the purchase of all goods, services and equipment needed in this emergency situation, in the amount of 25 million EUR155.

  • Porto (Portugal) has implemented flexibility mechanisms to reassess the value of supported rents. A direct line was created to reassess the value of income support based on the adjusted income of families, due to dismissal, lay-off, reduced activity of independent professionals or other situation of reduced income. This request immediately suspends the payment of rent until the amount is adjusted to the verified income. The city has also allowed the possibility for staggered payment of rent in social housing until December 31st, 2020 for all families that are unable to pay the monthly rent156.

  • Vila Nova de Famalicao (Portugal) is also supporting the payment of rents to households that have lost income, has implemented reductions in water tariffs and exempted institutions from tariffs. It is also providing daily lunch meals, on a take-away basis, for students in need.

  • Corlu (Turkey) has served hot meals twice a day for the families with no income are served. After the meals are cooked in a free food bank, they are delivered to the households by the teams in accordance with the hygiene and health rules157.

  • Ljubljana (Slovenia) organised home food delivery (by city bus drivers) for children from at risk families and elderly citizens. The Ljubljana Health Centre has ensured psychosocial support via phone or email for anyone potentially struggling with the current epidemiological situation. Ljubljana is also offering empty and disinfected hotel accommodation to staff from the University Medical Centre who commute from other towns, so they do not need to drive home every day158.

  • Alongside civil society organizations and volunteers, Lima (Peru) has also been coordinating the delivery of food and essential goods to the most vulnerable groups.

  • Ghent (Belgium) has extended, from May 1st onwards, financial support to all residents, regardless of their income status. The additional financial aid is granted after a social and financial investigation.


In many cities, confinement measures led to increase the episodes of domestic violence, against which local governments are taking measures. In Spain, in the first two weeks of April alone there was a 47% increase in calls to Spain’s domestic violence helpline compared to the same period last year. The number of women contacting support services, which have been designated as essential by the government, by email or on social media is said to have increased by as much as 700%. In Brazil, there has been an estimated rise in 40-50% of domestic violence cases.

Several cities have started specific campaigns against such domestic violence. For example, Madrid (Spain) has launched a campaign called 'Tú no te quedes en casa’ and ‘NoEstásSola’, to help victims during confinement. In Paris (France), to rescue victims of domestic violence, jointly with State services, women are allowed to break confinement to file a complaint at the police, and the emergency number 17 has been made available to report abuses 24/7. France has also funded hotel rooms for victims if their homes are not safe159. In many cities of Spain, those who would like to report violence at home discreetly can visit a pharmacy and give the code word “Mask 19””. The pharmacist will then alert the authorities. Some cities are making hotels and other shelters available to victims of domestic violence such as Düsseldorf (Germany), which has extended its accommodation facilities, shelters and protection services for women and children in need. Lima (Peru) has spread awareness and strengthened the available telephone line for legal and psychological counsel against violence, particularly towards the protection of women and children during the mandatory isolation time.

The confinement period has also exacerbated gender disparities in other ways. Due to their higher occupation in service, lower wage, part-time and precarious jobs, women will likely suffer disproportionately from the economic fallout. According to OECD data, women made up 84% of jobs in the service sector in 2018 in OECD countries, most of which have ceased to operate due to confinement measures160. Women are also more likely to contract the virus, as they are on the frontlines of essential service work: cashiers, pharmacists, social workers, cleaners, assistants to the elderly and healthcare workers all over the world are more likely to be women. In the US, one out of every three jobs held by women is considered essential during the COVID-19 crisis161. Furthermore, those that stay or work from home, are also confronted to disproportionate amounts of unpaid domestic and care work, given school closures and elderly caring needs. In OECD countries, women spend, on average, twice as much time on unpaid work than men162. Many cities have acknowledged the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women and girls and have implemented local measures to mitigate the impact. For example, the municipality of Beşiktaş (Turkey) has launched a social media campaign titled “Equality Starts from Home” encouraging both parents to share housework and childcare responsibilities equally163. The city of Paris (France) has allowed children of healthcare and emergency responders to continue to go to school, to ease childcare burdens at a time when society needs them most. As France eases restrictions, priority will be given in schools to children of public transportation as well as those of lower ages164.

Public communication, awareness raising and digital tools

In times of crisis, trust in institutions and their transparency in communicating with the public is even more essential than usual. In particular, health emergencies spark anxiety and uncertainty in communities and may lead to or exacerbate mental health issues. Periods of confinement and self-isolation also risk triggering feelings of loneliness and depression.

Early policy responses

In the face of COVID-19, several Mayors and local administrations have developed innovative ways to inform, reassure and communicate with the public. They have also developed a wide range of digital tools to cope with daily needs and health issues. Through public information programmes, websites, posters, advertisements and social media, cities are tapping into a vast array of outreach possibilities. Local leaders are calling on all residents to play their part in limiting the spread of the disease and relentlessly relay simple essential measures, such as hand washing for 20 seconds and coughing into an elbow, which can significantly slow infection rates. They are also sharing real time information on the stage of the pandemics in their cities through online portables, digital platforms or open data. In many cases, Mayors in person lead the charge to reassure their residents with a range of creative options from engaging with public figures or cartoonists, to using social media to address live questions.

  • One-stop databases. Tokyo (Japan) has created a one-stop database on the real-time COVID-19 situation including the number of infected people, their status, characteristics (age, gender), number of inquiries to the call centre, number of people using subways, etc. The city also provide as open-data the website’s source code, so that other municipalities and institutions can use the data and replicate similar webpages165. The autonomous Province of Trento (Italy) developed an institutional application as a one-stop shop for all guidelines, insights, reference sites, updates, decrees and ordinances, collected only from certified and reliable sources166. The City of Vancouver (Canada) launched an online dashboard to inform people of the city’s emergency response to the spread of COVID-19. It provides a snapshot view of all city services and gives information on a range of topics, including: compliance education (how the city is making sure everyone complies by the rules and guidelines); travel (how vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic has evolved); childcare for essential workers; support to homeless people; food security programmes; and community contributions167.

  • Call centres. Tokyo (Japan) has also established a new call centre to respond to a range of inquiries from foreign nationals on April 17th, which is available in 14 languages including English, Chinese and others. The region of Piedmont (Italy) has provided a toll-free number to receive citizens' reports with flu symptoms or respiratory problems. Düsseldorf (Germany) has opened a 24/7 information line on COVID-19 and included a live-ticker on its homepage counting infections. The city of Dijon (France) has put in place through OnDijon a phone number that citizens can call for all types of questions that are not health-related.168

  • Information and volunteering campaigns. San Francisco (US) has ensured that multi-lingual posters provided by public health officials with tips about protecting against COVID-19 are displayed in public spaces, ensuring as wide a community outreach as possible169. In Sydney (Australia), public health information has been distributed at the City’s community centres, libraries and childcare centres170. Bristol (UK) is repurposing its 2019 campaign #WeAreBristol to challenge people to overcome their differences and focus on what they have in common. A new partnership - Can Do Bristol - involving the city council and a community foundation offers a place for people who would like to donate time or money to sign up, and for people who need help to find help in their local area. The website showcases all volunteering opportunities in Bristol and is being used by community groups to promote activities where help is most needed. The city of Athens (Greece) has created a municipal radio station for continuous repetition of information and preventative health messages, not only in Greek but also in eight other languages.

  • Outreach campaigns. With the help of associations and cultural mediators, the Municipality of Ravenna (Italy) created videos with information about COVID-19 in Arabic, Wolof, Bambara, Pashto, French and English171. The municipality also translated guidance on protecting against the virus into 14 languages. Montreal (Canada) has developed an outreach campaign to disseminate essential information about access to housing, food aid, rights and government assistance and public health instructions to ethnocultural communities and immigrants. Recorded messages explaining public health instructions in several languages are broadcast on ethnic community radio stations. The City of Paris (France) and the French Department of Seine-Saint-Denis (located in Greater Paris), have launched, in partnership with local associations, an inclusive and multilingual communication campaign targeting the communities who do not easily have access to official sources of information such as low-income population, the homeless, asylum seekers or the allophone communities. The goal of this campaign is to relay simple essential measures to limit the spread of the pandemic. It will be available in 25 different languages172.

  • Messages from Mayors: In Düsseldorf (Germany) the Mayor addressed the population in a video message while calling on citizens to protect people at risk, particularly the sick and the elderly173. In Bratislava (Slovak Republic), the Mayor commissioned a famous local cartoonist to visually represent how residents can keep safe. The Mayor also regularly hosts live Facebook sessions to answer questions from citizens, and prepared a video with actors and public figures, motivating citizens to be responsible174. The Mayor of Paris (France) has regularly been providing messaging through Instagram posts and live videos to update citizens on new measures throughout the city, such as the expansion of bicycle lanes and the distribution of masks in phases as the lockdown eases. The Mayor of Bristol (UK) addressed the city via video, providing a calming presence, giving factual updates and reassuring residents175. In Lima (Peru), the first Metropolitan Council Session was held through video conference with real time voting176.

  • Websites: The Edinburgh (UK) municipal website relays the testing process to residents who may have access questions177.The city of Cape Town (South Africa) website provides detailed fact sheets on the virus178. Yokohama (Japan) has strengthened the distribution of the information related to COVID-19 to the foreigners staying in the city, through its affiliated foundation, “Yokohama Association for International Communication and Exchanges (YOKE)”. YOKE has created a website179, gathering relevant information, especially in English and Chinese (there is a large Chinatown in Yokohama.) The government in Mexico City (Mexico) publishes the number of cases and deaths in real time and by borough on a daily basis. While providing reliable information, against of the many ‘fake news’, the website also indicates which public services operates and where to find help in case of need180.

  • Digital app and platforms:

    • Health mobile apps: Buenos Aires (Argentina) created a digital platform, which provides recommendations on how to best avoid contagion181. The city of Sao Paulo (Brazil) is digitally monitoring confirmed or suspected cases through telemedicine and launched an application for self-isolated patients182. In Paris (France), l’APHP (Public assistance from Paris hospitals) is using Covidom, a digital application to monitor self-isolated patients183. The OLVG hospitals in Amsterdam (Netherlands) developed a mobile app called Corona check where people can send their symptoms through their mobile or tablet, which are then assessed by a medical team that can then contact the user if necessary. Originally available only in the region of Amsterdam, the app is now available throughout the country thanks to partnerships with other hospitals and another existing health app184. The City of Vienna (Austria) has commissioned Atos, to develop and implement an Epidemic Management System (EMS) to support the control of the spread of infectious diseases. With the COVID-19 crisis, EpiSYS, a digital platform, which stores and manages all patient data and data related to the virus - including tracking and tracing patient incident reports, in real-time, has been made available to other municipalities and provinces in Austria as well185.

    • Business mobile apps: Tel Aviv-Yafo (Israel) updated its platforms to enable timely updating of residents with all relevant information, while also providing the Municipality with a credible, up-to-the-minute picture of the status of the city’s residents and businesses. Valparaiso (Chile) developed a platform that provides the geo-tracking of all local shops, service suppliers and essential product stores to help residents identify those open in their neighbourhood or those providing home delivery services. Another objective of the platform is to limit the circulation of people in the city186.The city of Ghent (Belgium) created a platform to bundle on one website all online trading initiatives in March 2020. Regensburg (Germany) is intensifying the use of an existing regional portal for gift seekers and supporters of Regensburg traders to provide support during the COVID-19 crisis187. The platform allows users to access delivery, take-away and online voucher offers from different services.

    • Social mobile apps: Oslo (Norway) organises weekly digital meetings with minority-based NGOs to understand the needs and actions to succeed in the implementation of safety-measures and regulations on social distancing188. The municipality of Toulouse (France) launched an online platform enabling assistance to vulnerable groups during the lockdown period through a matching system between volunteers and people in need of help189. In Amsterdam (Netherlands), the platform Wij Amsterdam, launched in March 2020, was built through open source software to support citizens throughout the COVID-19 crisis and make their initiatives visible, connected online and mapped in the city of Amsterdam190.

  • Phone Alerts Philadelphia and New York City (US) have made COVID-19 Text Alerts available for residents who sign up to this service with a special number191. The city of Nice (France) has been using drones with cameras and loudspeakers to remind citizens of the COVID-19 confinement rules192.

  • Online educational activities. The city of Bamberg (Germany) and its surrounding district built an online platform gathering information on educational opportunities193. The City of Vienna (Austria) now offers its free Förderung 2.0 (“Support 2.0”) tutoring initiative for 10-14 year-old with additional support in German, Mathematics and English for lower secondary students194. In New York City (United States), the Department of Education has loaned out 300,000 tablets with internet access to students in need in order to support distance learning. The first students to receive devices were the 13 000 public school students in homeless shelters. Tablets were provided based on priority criteria, starting with students with no access to internet or a computer195.

  • Online cultural activities. Bergamo (Italy) is encouraging its citizens to experience online visits through ten museums while staying at home since March 2020. There are virtual tours and online collections available. In April, Paris (France) launched the initiative “Que faire à la Maison” (What to do at home), which provides options for virtual and online experiences on sports, expositions, concerts and even for children. In New Orleans (US), the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Economy has launched an “Embrace the Culture” series online, with topics ranging from cooking demonstrations to children’s readings196.

Easing restrictions

Many cities are making sure that citizens are provided with real time information, while the restrictions are being gradually released. This for example concerns information of commercial activities open to the public, updated health and transport services. Some examples include the following:

  • Vaasa Central Hospital in Vaasa (Finland) is commencing trials for Ketju, a Finnish app designed to help healthcare professionals to identify people who have been exposed to COVID-19. Using Bluetooth technology, the app anonymously records encounters between its voluntary users to rapidly and accurately identify infection chains, helping to manage the workload of healthcare staff and offer citizens a concrete way to contribute to the fight against COVID-19. The application is an important part of preparing for the future stages of the epidemic, after easing of national lockdown restrictions have gradually begun in Finland starting on April 15th197.

  • The Bilbao (Spain) City Council is a member of BILBAO DENDAK, a public-private association for the promotion of commercial and tourist activity in Bilbao. Bilbao Dendak has drawn up an interactive map with the shops that are open and those that offer home delivery service198. This map is updated according to lockdown measures that are being gradually lifted in Spain starting from May 4th.

  • EMT, Madrid’s (Spain) public bus operator intensively uses its broadcast channels to inform all users about the conditions of use of its services and the obligation to reduce mobility. Furthermore, EMT uses all its digital channels (web, app, social networks) to inform users and citizens in real time of any updates in mobility during the easing of lockdown restrictions199.

  • In New York City (US), the Department of Transportation (DOT) seeks to encourage the use of contactless payments through smartphones to reduce contacts and exposure risk for the public and the workforce. Two different apps are available to residents: ParkNYC (launched in 2016, was used for more than 22 million transactions in 2019) and ParkMobile, a nationwide app200.

Lessons learned on the use of digital tools

The digital divide is one of the many inequalities exposed by COVID-19. Boston (US), is working to address the digital divide by providing high school students with a free "cell phone/hotspot" through the 1Million Project. Boston public schools are also providing a Chromebook to students in need of a device. In New York (US) the city has 25 000 Chromebooks in stock to give to students, but still has about 300 000 students who lack access to devices. In Yokohama (Japan), as there might be students who cannot access to the internet, some of the lessons were made to be available to watch on the sub channel of a local TV station (TV Kanagawa) from April 20th. Milan (Italy) has launched a call for donations of devices or internet connections to schools that have started remote learning. The City of Toronto (Canada) has partnered with ICT companies to provide free temporary internet access for low-income neighbourhoods, long-term care homes and shelters.

National and local governments have been using technologies to ensure the respect of social distancing and for contact tracing. The city of Newcastle (UK) is using smart city technologies to assess whether social distancing is respected.201 In Daegu (South Korea), the epidemiological investigation during the outbreak was able to use the data hub of the smart city, to trace patient routes202. Furthermore, the government plans to build out a “smart city” database and get quarantine violators to agree to use tracking bracelets.203 The database was initially designed to share information between cities on things like traffic and pollution. Health authorities plan to leverage that network to reduce the time it takes to find and isolate COVID-19 cases. However, despite the positive impact to contain the epidemic, their use raises privacy concerns. For example, the European Commission is currently liaising with eight European telecommunications operators to obtain anonymised aggregate mobile geolocation data to coordinate measures tracking the spread of COVID-19. To address privacy concerns, the data will be deleted once the crisis is over204.

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Going forward: Policy implications for cities’ recovery and resilience

Life after COVID-19 will likely be a life with COVID-19. Beyond the public health emergency to reduce the spread of the virus and protect citizens’ health, the pandemic and its aftermath are prompting cities to rethink how they deliver services, how they plan their space and how they can resume economic growth. Some cities are already looking beyond the crisis to the recovery efforts that will be required following the COVID-19 outbreak. Cities have always been places of creativity and innovation, and local leaders are ensuring this will be the case once again.

There is certainly now a momentum to take bold, courageous decisions that can be political costly but are socially more acceptable than they were a few months ago. Post-crisis efforts can be turned into an opportunity to improve people’s lives and stimulate innovation: from extensive use of digital solutions, to decentralised production, remanufacturing, and restructuring of supply chains to respond to goods shortages. Civic duty and community involvement are prevailing over individual interest to protect vulnerable groups. This can inspire lasting behavioural shifts to make cities more resilient and more efficiently connected with rural areas, in terms of the way goods are produced, energy consumed and transport organised.

The post COVID-19 recovery has the potential to build a “new normal” in cities, reducing the vulnerability of economic, social and environmental systems. Typically, projections on the impact of demographic change, urbanisation and climate change on cities may threaten the social wellbeing and economic growth of current and future generations. In the face of such megatrends, cities can accelerate their efforts to put in place actions to become more resilient, greener, circular and smarter, before a new crisis may hit.

Global agendas, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, provide a key opportunity for national, regional and local governments to advance a new sustainable development paradigm as well as to prioritise investments and resources to recover from the pandemic. Global Agendas also provide a common roadmap and vision to engage local stakeholders, including the private sector and civil society in co-creating and building the “new normal”.

Key lessons from urban resilience show that three steps are required to institute effective risk management: preparation, prevention and response. While this note focused on responses, preparation and prevention should guide future actions. Resilience in cities can be achieved not only by responding to a crisis, but by preparing for future crises and preventing them. Preparation provides a foundation to manage and limit damage, while considering the cost and time required for recovering from crisis. Prevention is a proactive way to reduce exposure to social, economic and environmental crisis in the long-term through regulation, fiscal instruments as well as investment in resilient urban infrastructure.

The COVID-19 crisis and the responses to it underline the importance and potential of long-term strategies for cities to be more inclusive, greener and smarter in their recovery efforts and the underlying governance and financing needs to enable transformation (Figure 2). The following sections provide some action-oriented policy recommendations for governments, at all levels, to work together in building back better cities in light of the COVID-19 lessons. They build on earlier guidance provided by the OECD on disaster risk management, urban resilience, and key principles on urban policy.

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Figure 2. Long-term actions in cities post COVID-19
Figure 2. Long-term actions in cities post COVID-19

To build inclusive cities that provide opportunities for all, all levels of government should:

  • Provide efficient social and community services for disadvantaged groups such as health care and home care (i.e. elderly and homeless people), through the design and implementation of ambitious social innovation strategies and a repurposing of empty buildings;

  • Ensure that those left behind (i.e. migrants, low-wage workers) are targeted with customised employment and activation programmes that are adaptable, relevant, flexible and respond to the new needs of the local labour market after the crisis;

  • Take measures to adjust housing quantity, quality and affordability to the variety of housing needs, with a view to promote social cohesion and integration with sustainable transport modes.

  • Improve accessibility to soft mobility, taking into account the needs of categories of people (i.e. elderly, families with children, disables) when rethinking the future of urban mobility in the post COVID-19 recovery phase (i.e. cycling as transport mode);

  • Promote equitable access to quality education and leverage the full potential of online education, especially for low-income youth, and foster collaboration between higher education institutions, businesses, local and regional governments, and civil society.

To build green cities that can transition to a low-carbon economy, all levels of governments should:

  • Address negative agglomeration externalities, such as traffic congestion and air pollution, by reducing the use of private cars through congestion charges and ad hoc regulation that account for specific exemptions, improving multi-modal transport, such as active and clean urban mobility (i.e. proximity & walkability; combining supply-side and demand-side transport management policies);

  • Exploit the advantages of urban density and urban form (compact or sprawl) through forward looking spatial and land use planning to prioritise climate-resilient and low-carbon urban infrastructure, for instance by designing and constructing green buildings and streets, and producing and procuring renewable energy where feasible;

  • Encourage more efficient use of resources, and more sustainable consumption and production patterns, notably by promoting circular economy to keep the value of goods and products at their highest, prevent waste generation, reuse and transform waste into resources.

  • Mainstream climate mitigation and adaptation priorities in stimulus packages and investments to recover from the crisis, for instance by designing conditional subsidies, preferential loans and fiscal incentives for green investment projects and business practices, while setting accompanying measures for the most vulnerable groups who may be disproportionately affected;

  • Stimulate the local economy (i.e. local food production), while rethinking short mile logistics.

To build smart cities that can leverage the full potential of innovation for residents’ well-being and foster inclusive growth, all levels of government should:

  • Ensure that new technology in public transport (i.e. app-based ride services) is inclusive and sustainable including to those with reduced mobility and those in underserved communities as well as those with lower access to technology, while safeguarding the privacy of individuals;

  • Adopt appropriate regulation for the sharing and gig economy to further employment security, protect the public interest and workers’ social safety nets, considering social distancing rules to be applied in the long run;

  • Advance the data measurement agenda to better assess the smart cities’ performance and their contribution to urban residents well-being and inclusive growth;

  • Leverage digitalisation to deliver more efficient, sustainable, affordable and inclusive local public services, such as real-time data, electronic congestion tolls, smart parking systems, IoT sensors, smart contracts;

  • Have in place a framework to support cities in using public procurement for innovation to purchase innovation driven solutions.

To build inclusive, green and smart cities, governments should leverage good governance as a means to design and implement successful strategies and policies, in shared responsibility with stakeholders:

  • Promote an agile and flexible model of city governance through innovative collaborative tools, partnerships or contracts that put the interest of local residents at the centre and increase resilience, including inter-municipal and international collaboration and public-private partnerships;

  • Co-ordinate responsibilities and resources across levels of government to meet concomitantly place-specific needs, national objectives, and global commitments related to health safety long term objectives, resilience and sustainable development, in an effective and transparent manner;

  • Adopt a functional approach at metropolitan level to policy action based on where people live and work to tailor strategies and public service delivery to the diversity of urban scales;

  • Strengthen strategic management and innovation capabilities of local public officials to design and implement integrated and resilient urban strategies fit for complex challenges;

  • Foster citizen engagement to rethink social, environmental and economic measures for the recovery phase, by engaging community in decision-making and implementation and continuing to use digital tool for more permanent solutions to structural inequalities;

  • Harness innovative mechanisms to engage with the private sector in the recovery phase, notably property developers, urban planners, institutional investors, the financial sector, as well as with regulators, academia, and civil society;

  • Advance sustainable public procurement and infrastructures combining economic, social and environmental objectives, to create and shape local markets with an inclusive and green growth lens, change consumption and production patterns and transition from linear to circular economies in shared responsibility with business and citizens;

  • Support open government initiatives to expand and facilitate access to public information, increased transparency and accountability of decision-makers, as well as instances of co-creation of public policies;

  • Support systems and networks of cities, for example through city-to-city co-operation to learn from innovative responses at city level.

To implement integrated and forward-looking post recovery measures, governments should leverage adequate financial resources for inclusive, green and smart cities

  • Facilitate the uptake of innovative financial mechanisms, which includes sustainability bonds to finance public spaces, urban infrastructure, neighbourhood development and affordable housing;

  • Exploit the potential of specific financial instruments in case of crisis or unpredicted economic shocks, such as contingency funds/reserve funds, lines of credit, and moratoriums on rent payments;

  • Leverage private sector funding where appropriate with a view to maximise related opportunities and address risks;

  • Encourage companies, notably SMEs, to prepare business continuity plans that also consider the risk of health crises and systemic shocks, and foresee, amongst others, flexible and remote working and digitalisation;

  • Explore innovative participatory budgeting for citizens to have a say on how public funds are spent, in particular for programmes and infrastructure projects pursuing inclusive objectives;

  • Promote financial models forms that encourage a social economy including those which engage citizens through cooperatives or other forms of social enterprises in areas such as decentralised renewable energy, food production and distribution.

copy the linklink copied!Annex 1.A. Examples of city actions to fight the COVID-19 crisis from early to advanced stages of the pandemic

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The city has created a municipal radio station for continuous reproduction of information and prevention spots against COVID-19, not only in Greek but also in other eight languages. The city has made sure that there is continuous disinfection and cleaning of streets, pavements, pedestrian walkways, squares and public hospitals of the city. The city has suspended operation of all open sport and cultural facilities, museums, libraries, theatres and creative learning centers of the City of Athens Culture, Sports and Youth Organization (OPANDA). The city operates a municipal hotline for those in need for food and medication and unable to move outside their house; as well as for psychological and first aid support of the citizens by psychologists, social workers, doctors and nurses from the municipal health centers. There are exceptional economic relief measures for enterprises in Athens affected by this unprecedented health crisis, especially for those that have had to cease their operation due to COVID-19 containment measures it is foreseen: exemption from payment of State fees (sanitation and street lighting fees as well as tax on electric - powered premises); exemption from payment of public space occupancy fees, exemption from payment of duties on the purchase of temporary residence in short-stay accommodation; and exemption from payment of fees on the gross revenues of commercial premises.



Following national directives, Berlin closed schools and cancelled events in state theatres, operas and concert halls Gatherings with more than two participants are prohibited in Germany.



Bilbao is collaborating with citizens to protect vulnerable members of the community, especially the elderly. Citizens are asked to identify local situations of loneliness, difficulties in meeting basic needs or lack of family or social support. If they detect such a case amongst their neighbours, they are required to contact Municipal Social Services. Additional spaces have also been organised for care of the homeless, migrants or unaccompanied minors. Municipal sport halls are being fitted with beds to provide social accommodation, if necessary. Specific measures aimed at supporting entrepreneurs, small retailers and SMEs have been launched through an urgent consultancy service organised by the City Council, which offers telephone and online assistance. The processing of all tax procedures has been postponed. The mayor of Bilbao activated the Municipal Emergency Plan on March 13th. It includes measures such as: citizen service by telephone and online channels, online form for starting procedures, the Basic Social Services offer telephone attention, citizen collaboration to detect solitude situations, specific cleaning and sanitation services, adaptation of public transport, interruption in tax and fee deadlines, modifications in the administrative procedures, adequacy of municipal markets, and a housing contingency plan. The community of Innovative Shops of Bilbao has launched the #Adoptauncomercio (#Adoptashop) initiative, through which shops are putting on sale vouchers to be acquired by all those people who want to support them to survive in these difficult moments. BILBAO DENDAK, the public-private association (of which Bilbao City Council is a member) for the promotion of commercial and tourist activity in Bilbao, has drawn up an interactive map with the shops that are open and those that offer home delivery service. Bilbao City Council has launched the program #gazteklubaetxean to offer to young people online leisure alternatives in which they can participate and enjoy themselves from home. The Municipal Libraries of Bilbao are closed to the public during the state of alarm, nevertheless their activity is maintained and their digital services are available to the public. The Bilbao Guggenheim Museum, of which the Bilbao City Council is a patron, has launched a virtual initiative in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture through which a compendium of the museum's high-definition images can be enjoyed online.



In Bogota all public or private events exceeding 1 000 people are postponed. Furthermore, organisations have been asked to facilitate working from home, establishing a shift system to minimise contact, reduce rush hour traffic and shift education to online learning. The city created a public-private partnership between health service providers to purchase facemasks, gel, alcohol and other supplies to prevent shortages. The city announced an additional 35km for cyclists, adding to the 550 km already secured by an ambitious and proactive policy since the 1970s.



The City of Bonn’s volunteer agency and several local initiatives have teamed up to help the most vulnerable risk groups. With several hotlines, they are matching citizens in need with those wanting to provide volunteer services in everyday life. To assist families in this difficult situation, Bonn’s local Education and Family Centre has opened an additional hotline.

As Bonn is an international city, the City Hall has intensified its communication to respond to the needs of international and non-German-speaking citizens. To keep all citizens informed, the City regularly updates its English website and uses an English twitter account. The City is also proving additional translation into other languages.



The city created a public hot line to attend questions related to COVID-19 and created a solution for psychological support to citizens in partnership with the School of Health Sciences of University of Minho. The municipality supported the University of Minho to the creation of a rear centre in the University Residence for people who are in nursery homes and similar facilities affected by cases of COVID-19.

The city created a free hot line called +60 to support senior citizens in isolation or in a vulnerable situation. This line is to help seniors in tasks like buy goods in supermarket or urgent medicines.

In relation to the problems in several residential homes for the elderly, Braga was the first city in the country to assume the payment of tests to COVID-19 for all professionals and elderly people in those centres. This operation is ongoing, having already covered several institutions. The city is receiving several donations, particularly with masks and other protective material. Now it is donating this material to nursing homes to protect the professionals and its residences.

The Civil Protection of the Municipality and the Fire Department of Braga are taking actions to disinfect nursery homes to prevent the spread of the virus all across the city. The city also offered to Volunteer Firefighters of Braga an extraordinary grant for the current year, in addition to protection material.



Since the initial phase of the crisis, the government suspended classes in the public school system in the Federal District. The Social Development and Education secretariats signed a partnership to allocate goods and food from closed schools to the social institutions at the Federal District. Cinemas and theatres have closed. The government installed alcohol gel points in the main bus station. The local trade, industry and services unit established an online chat service. The Tax Rate on the Circulation of Goods and Services (ICMS) for alcohol in gel and other COVID-19 prevention products was reduced.


Slovak Republic

Bratislava has made it compulsory to wear a protective facemask when travelling on public transport. The transport authority has also banned entering or exiting through the front doors that are closest to the driver. Doors open automatically, so passengers do not need to push any buttons.

Bratislava has banned all visitors from elderly homes and closed schools. The city has also setup a dedicated free of charge Senior phone line to serve the most vulnerable with delivering food, medication or providing social contact. Since schools closed, the city has worked with child psychologists to provide a free parent phone line to discuss any issues regarding home schooling or anxiety parents and children might face.

The Mayor commissioned a famous local cartoonist to draw basic principles to keep residents healthy. He also regularly hosts Facebook live sessions to answer questions from citizens, and prepared a video with actors and public figures, motivating citizens to be responsible.



The mayor is keeping residents up to date through video messaging. Bristol city has a COVID-19 response team – not just council but city wide input, for example, from police. About 18 work streams, a council communications cell, and senior leadership meet twice a week and are the central decision-making body.

The city’s One City approach allows for cross-city action and decision-making.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has published data on the amount of money distributed to SMEs by every local authority in England as part of the two grant schemes launched to help businesses deal with COVID-19. At the time of publication on April 20th, Bristol had distributed over GBP 53.3m (approx. 61%) of its Small Business Grants Fund and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Funds. Businesses with multiple outlets can receive more than one grant and may receive grants from separate local authorities, if their different outlets are in different local authority areas. Over 6 100 small business grant applications have been received and over 4 600 have been issued with a value of almost GBP 58.9m to support businesses in Bristol. A further circa 1 400 eligible firms are yet to apply and confirm their details. Further communications will be made out to these businesses to ensure they can benefit.

Buenos Aires


The City Hall suspended recreational, social and cultural activities for more than 200 people, for an initial period of 30 days. School activities have been suspended, but school remains open to ensure that the most vulnerable children can access food. Buenos Aires is coordinating measures and permanent talks with the National Government. The city has created a digital platform to provide recommendations to avoid contagion. Just some stations of the whole metro network remain open in order to prioritise people who need to travel longer distances. Suggestions of moving on foot or by bicycle for the shortest distances have also been made.

Connected Educational Community is a school help desk through which parents can connect and present ideas, make inquiries, and see the contents to accompany their children in the learning process with our virtual educational platform. The help desk is accessible through a free toll telephone number or through the online chat of the City.

Mayores Cuidados is a collaborative network of City volunteers to help and take care of the elderly. It includes emotional containment by phone calls to help them carry on with the isolation and help with food and medicine purchases as well as walking their pets.

Buenos Aires chatbot helps to protect citizens against COVID-19. WhatsApp chatbot that indicates if a person has symptoms of the disease after a series of questions. If so, Public Health standards are activated, referring suspicious cases to the operators of the Emergency Medical Care System. These operators are connected through the same chat in order to expedite health care.





The City of Cambridge implemented a partnership with local businesses to feed the homeless. With many shelter programmes short staffed and no longer having the capacity to prepare meals on site, the city has contracted local restaurants to provide bag or boxed meals for lunch and dinner. These meals will then be delivered to shelters and programmes that have indicated a strong need for meals.

Cape Town

South Africa

The Cape Department of Health has surveillance systems in place to rapidly identify and detect any cases in the province. This includes the screening and monitoring of anyone with a relevant travel history and close contacts with the affected areas.



Water services were temporarily restored to thousands of households in Detroit disconnected due to unpaid bills amid the public health outcry (in 2014, shortly after filing the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history, the city had launched a massive shutoff programme). In its first year, 31 000 households had their water shut off]

Daegu Metropolitan City


Daegu Metropolitan City launched 'drive-thru' COVID-19 testing facilities to cope with the fast rise in demand for tests. These facilities allow medical staff to test citizens directly in their car. The test is much quicker and safer for patients than visiting a hospital or a health centre. It takes about 10 minutes, and results are sent via text message within three days.



The City of Düsseldorf opened a 24/7 information line on Corona Virus including a live-ticker on its homepage. Mayor Geisel addressed the population in a video message to explain how Düsseldorf intends to proceed to fight the COVID-19 crisis. A dedicated diagnostic centre has been set up in a central location in the city and aims to relieve the burden on general practices. A refugee centre has been vacated to be used as a quarantine station for potential patients who might not be able to self-isolate in their own homes or might be stranded in Düsseldorf. The City is also offering social services to help people at risk with essential shopping and other errands.

Düsseldorf has established a telephone counselling service for those in need of support while staying at home. Düsseldorf has extended its accommodation facilities, shelters and protection services for women and children in need. Düsseldorf’s cultural institutions offer lectures, classes and infotainment during social distancing. Düsseldorf has issued a general ruling to regulate the dispensed quality of goods to counteract panic buying. The City of Düsseldorf has launched an online portal with collected information on local support services and businesses. One can find information on which shops and restaurants offer delivery service; also, information on culture, sports, e-learning, tips for families etc. is to be found there. Düsseldorf has expanded its COVID-19 testing capacities (up to 800 tests per day) and the COVID-19 information line has been optimised: the staff has received extensive training, and a phone bot to deal with the public's COVID-19 queries has been installed.



The local Council is working closely with higher levels of government to monitor and respond to the national situation, and provide local advice on personal hygiene. The municipal website relays the testing process. The Scottish Government Department for Health and Social Care confirms each case. Health Protection Scotland co-ordinates the response, information and advice on COVID-19. Local and national NHS services test individuals, and provide advice through calls to NHS 111.



The municipal website provides information on peak travel times and online services to reduce in-person communication. Fukuoka is promoting flexible working hours both in the city government and in private companies. Congestion is communicated by the city website. Schools have been provided with educational movie contents on home learning for children. The city is also providing low-interest loans and consulting services for SMEs that are affected by the spread of COVID-19.



The City of Ghent took extra support measures in favour of the local economy (such as deferral of payments), and also facilitates for example the matching between requests for support and supportive volunteers, through the specially launched volunteer platform “Ghent Helps”.

The City of Ghent provides extra funding for 21 initiatives that provide shelter and food for the homeless.

Additionally, a solidarity fund “Solidary Ghent” was set up by a collective of civil society and non-governmental organisations to protect vulnerable residents against COVID-19 by i.e. financing the purchase of medical care, delivering healthy food, etc.

A budget has been reserved so that all schools will be able to provide tailored assistance during the remaining part of the school year, and during the summer holidays in preparation for the next school year.

During the past Easter holidays, the city also provided and coordinated childcare for about 600 children living in a vulnerable situation at 51 different locations. In addition, the City together with Digipolis Ghent (the city’s IT-support body), are making laptops and tablets available free of charge for vulnerable resident pupils. The city also provides about 1 500 games and reading packages to this target group for free.

The City of Ghent took a series of concrete measures to assist Ghent citizens who are struggling financially. The Ghent Taskforce Relaunch decided on a package of measures on April 3rd, 2020 to assist Ghent residents in financial difficulties. These social measures include crisis support for families with a living wage, additional financial aid, regardless of income statute and support to pay the rent and buy material and equipment.

King County


King Country has built additional temporary care facilities and is repurposing buildings for isolation and quarantine. The county has joined forces with philanthropic organisations to establish a relief fund, and created a donations connector page for people to request what they need and give what they can.

The U.S. Centre for Disease Control (CDC) was dispatched early on in the crisis to investigate the outbreak. Schools and other places of gathering have been closed. COVID-19 public health recommendations are provided in several languages. The local government is providing real time updates on the numbers of cases.

Las Vegas


On March 17th, Nevada’s governor ordered a month-long closure of casinos and other non-essential businesses such as bars, movie theatres and gyms, and for restaurants to shutter their dining rooms and only offer takeout or delivery orders. Employees who can work from home have been advised to do so; ill employees must stay home. Businesses are required to protect employees who must work in-person in accordance with social distancing guidance appropriate for that workplace. Elderly people, those with health conditions and other high-risk populations are advised to stay at home and avoid unnecessary contact. Local governments are required to enforce 50% or less capacity of any public gathering space presently allowed by fire marshals.



Lisbon closed municipal museums, galleries, libraries and theatres. The municipality has suspended all sports activities, closed swimming pools and leisure grounds. Schools have been closed and activities complementary to education, such as study visits and outings promoted by the municipality or using the municipality's transport service have been cancelled. Visits to nursing homes were suspended across the country.



Lima closed city parks until further notice, as well as cancelling concerts, sporting and cultural events. Municipal Solidarity Hospitals have been added to the Ministry of Health network of institutions available for COVID-19 testing. Local police works alongside the national force, helping to oversee public spaces.

The City created a Work Team for Disaster Risk Management of the Municipality of Lima for the design and development of prevention and response measures to COVID–19. It coordinates with all other District Municipalities to implement integrated strategies. The first Metropolitan Council Session was held through video conference with real time voting. 

Garbage collection in the city centre, sanitation and deep cleaning of public transport are ensured. The Municipality has begun actions to strengthen and guarantee the supply of drinking water to the most vulnerable areas of the city, beginning with the delivery of ten cisterns of drinking water.

Lima has implemented an online voluntary register for elderly citizens, as well as a telephone line to provide information regarding COVID-19 prevention measures and medical and psychological counselling. Joining forces with civil society organisations and volunteers, the Municipality is coordinating and helping with the delivery of food and essential goods to the most vulnerable groups. The Municipality has begun conditioning a historical bullring for the relocation and protection of those without a home.



The City of Ljubljana has organised home food delivery for children from at risk families and elderly citizens. Drivers of city buses are volunteering to perform the deliveries. The Ljubljana Health Centre has ensured psychosocial support via phone or email for anyone potentially struggling with the current epidemiological situation. The Home Care Institution Ljubljana is now offering the elderly and their families free therapeutic/consultative support via telephone that would contribute to the increased independence of the elderly in their home environment.

The City of Ljubljana has offered empty and disinfected rooms in Hostel Celica, run by the Ljubljana Castle public institute, to be used by the University Medical Centre for the accommodation of their staff. The hostel is intended for workers who come to work from other towns, so they do not need to drive home every day and self-protective measures are made easier.

The public institution Young Dragons also organises quality and active leisure time for young people during this epidemic. The digital youth centre DigiMC was opened, where young people can choose content according to their own interests, participate in conversations and other activities.

The community health centres in Ljubljana provide all urgent curative health care services for their patients and regular check-ups of children up to 12 months of age, including vaccination.

Los Angeles


Mayor Garcetti declared a local emergency to support quick action and coordination of local public health agencies.

The City of Los Angeles has introduced an official mass notification system, ‘NotifyLA’, to send voice messages, text messages and emails to residents and businesses during times of emergencies and disasters. Residents sign up online.



A new public-private collaboration has been approved to multiply the number of hospital beds. Hotels, pavilions and retirement homes for the slightly affected have been medicalised. From March 10th, scheduled surgical procedures, non-preferred medical visits, tests, and scheduled admissions have been suspended or delayed.

Schools are closed along with all municipal facilities including cultural centres, senior centres, libraries and sports centres.

The regional government announced the daily disinfection of regular public passenger transport: it applies to all metro trains, suburban trains, trams and light rail, stations and urban furniture. Metro has established the automatic opening of doors in 64% of the metro trains.

Madrid City Council has approved 63 million EUR tax breaks on receipts from the Economic Activities Tax and the taxes for leisure, hospitality and commercial establishments, travel agencies and department stores, on the condition that they keep workers jobs until the end of year.

The city has reduced political activity to a minimum. Council plenary sessions in all the districts have been suspended.

Mexico City


The government of Mexico City has a dedicated website with statistics updated in real time on the number of COVID-19 cases reported and the number of deaths as well as the hospitals where people can go to be treated and have available debs. The information is provided at the borough level (alcaldía). It includes information on the different programmes adopted to face the social and economic problems derived from the health emergency. The website includes information explaining the use of public resources (contracts, support to SMEs, unemployment insurance, etc.) to respond to the crisis. It provides citizens with information regarding the public services available and the ways to have access to them.



The Mayor of Milan announced the establishment of a mutual aid fund to help those most in need and then to support the recovery of city activities. The fund, in addition to the allocation of 3 million EUR already approved by the City Council, is open to the economic participation of individual citizens, companies and associations who want to give their contribution. The fund raised 800 000 EUR on its first day (March 14th).

The city is distributing facemasks to doctors and paediatricians (for their patients), shop keepers and taxi drivers, social housing and safety kits to riders. Empty buildings owned by the Municipality are destined to welcome vulnerable people who need to isolate.

“Milano Aiuta” is a programme to coordinate local volunteering activities, with the aim to merge health and social care, taking precautions and at the same time keeping the necessary services for the population active.

There are temporary Food Hubs for the distribution of food to the most vulnerable families. The city has given vouchers for grocery shopping for the families most affected by the COVID-19 emergency due to lack of income or loss of employment. The city has created a georeferenced map of all small retailers selling necessary goods and delivering them at home.



The Montpellier CHU uses the Mhlink application, which allows for remote monitoring of patients with COVID-19, who are confined in their homes as their health does not require hospitalisation.



Montreal is taking a series of measures to protect the population from COVID-19, in accordance with the recommendations and guidelines issued by the regional public health department. Measures include the opening of a walk-in massive testing clinic, a series of resources and economic measures to assist Montréal businesses, support to homeless residents and community organisations. The city is also working with Government and community partners in order to handle the current situation

Montreal has announced a series of measures to support the homeless during the COVID-19 crisis (i.e. improving shelter services, chemical toilets, sanitary products, food assistance, continuing winter measures). The City is working with several partners to find spaces that could become homeless shelters.

Due to COVID-19 and its strong impact on businesses, the City of Montreal is offering emergency financial support and is taking measures to help businesses. The City has created a hotline and a form so that businesses can get the information and support that is provided. Assistance measures include postponement of municipal taxes, emergency financial assistance, automatic moratorium on capital and interest, etc.



Public schools, sports schools and additional education institutions are closed and pupils are following their studies online through the "Moscow Electronic School". Special medical buildings have been equipped for COVID-19 patients and suspected cases.

Patients coming from countries with a poor epidemiological situation are referred to infectious disease clinical hospitals. Additional beds have been prepared for them in city hospitals. An infectious disease centre is under construction. A maternity hospital is temporarily transformed into an inpatient clinic for COVID-19 patients.

Firms are required to send home their employees who show symptoms.

At the entrances to the Moscow Metro random temperature checks are conducted through a contactless method.

The Operational Headquarters for Economic Affairs in Moscow is preparing proposals to support businesses and organisations whose activities are limited due to the crisis.

New York


New York has put in place a text notification system to convey regular updates on the latest developments.

The City declared facemasks, hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes temporarily in short supply to prevent stores from overcharging citizens. It is also temporarily illegal to drastically increase prices to secure access and affordability for vulnerable groups.

The local government distributed thousands of palm cards with tips on handwashing and seeking care, and produced FAQs, fact sheets (in 15 languages) and educational materials for general public as well as for businesses, employers and 16 000 community partners.

A USD 6.5 million subway, digital and multi-media campaign was launched to encourage hygiene and seeking care when symptomatic. A drive-through testing facility was set up in New Rochelle, the epicentre of the outbreak.



Oakland declared a local emergency and cancelled all large public events, as well as expanding sanitation services for unsheltered residents. The city set up a COVID-19 emergency planning team, working closely with the county public health office and the California Department of Public Health.

Palermo, Sicily Region


Schools, cinemas, theatres and museums have been closed along with pubs, night clubs, gyms, etc. Civil and religious ceremonies, including funerals and weddings have been cancelled.

Palermo has prohibited visitors staying in first aid waiting rooms.



Paris is co-ordinating daily crisis meetings involving all stakeholders. Information is updated on the website. The city is using Covidom, a digital application to monitor confirmed or suspected patients in their home. It allows hospitals to regulate patient flows. Two centres have opened specifically for homeless people who may be contaminated but do not require hospitalisation. Access to these centres is granted by medical advice, in consultation with regional agencies health (ARS). The Paris Opera and Apollo Theatre, among others, have made their productions digitally available for free. On Friday April 17th, the City of Paris jointly with Parisian Public Hospitals (AP-HP) and ACCOR company started the “COVISAN” project to quarantine those potentially infected and contagious who don’t need hospitalisation and thus protect their families. Specially adapted rooms in hotels are made available to those who volunteer to participate. At the beginning, priority is given to working class neighbourhoods where according to recent surveys more people than average are impacted by the virus. To guarantee the success of the project a partnership has been developed to associate all parties involved --institutions, professionals and volunteers. On April 9th, the City of Paris provided families paying the lowest canteen rates with an exceptional aid of 50 to 150 EUR per month (and an extra 50 EUR for the second and third child only). It will benefit 28 579 Parisian families, i.e. 52 000 children. Jointly with the State and the Parisian region, the City of Paris has developed schemes to back up and support economic actors (i.e. freezing of rents, road and terrace taxes and miscellaneous municipal taxes for closed business and NGOs, support to the agricultural sector and next door distribution circuits).




COVID-19 text alerts are available for residents who sign up.



The mayor announced on March 17th that events with more than 50 people are prohibited and recommended that bars and restaurants operate at 50% of their capacity.

The city is hiring health professionals, and has launched the COVID-19 Contingency Plan with 29 actions.

The traditional presentation of the Passion of Christ, which was scheduled to take place in April, was postponed to September.



Since the first COVID-19 diagnosis and subsequent national Alert Phase declaration on February 28th, the City of Reykjavík Emergency Committee lead by Mayor Eggertsson has met near daily in order to plan contingency measures in response to the pandemic. The response aims at limiting the spread of the virus, protecting citizens and employees as well as possible and ensure that there will be no disruption to necessary services. Reykjavík’s community centres, day care centres, work and activity-focused support services and short-term admissions for the elderly, handicapped and people who suffer from underlying diseases have been closed temporarily, as well as museums, sports centres, skiing resorts and public pools. Many shops open one hour early, reserving that time only for the elderly and others at increased risk. The city has taken on extra measures in order to protect its waste management employees.

Internal website was set up in 10 languages already by March 16th, containing general facts on COVID-19 as well as important guidelines for employees on sanitation and security, and information on their legal rights and duties during the situation. The City updates this site regularly as the situation evolves.

The City disseminates all the latest decisions, news and announcements regularly via the website

The City of Reykjavík encourages the use of its e-services and staff are asked to work from home if possible. Elementary schools and kindergartens remain open because of the limited risk posed to children by the virus, and their apparent low risk of spreading it. This allows for parents, especially those in COVID-19 emergency response, to continue to work. Universities and secondary schools are closed.

Rio de Janeiro


On 13 March 13th, the mayor announced measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. Classes and all cultural activities are suspended. The city has recommended that alternative work shift shifts be adopted to avoid overcrowding in transport so that the industry sector starts the first shift at 6 am, trade at 8 am, and the service sector at 10 am, . Whenever possible, workers should telework. People with low immunity (asthma, pneumonia, tuberculosis, cancer, chronic and transplanted kidneys) have been advised to stay at home.

The government has conducted a public awareness campaign on all social networks, partnering with the transport, telephone and media concessionaires, using official material from the Federal Government as a source. A crisis cabinet has been established with members of the secretariats of Health, Culture, Education, Social Assistance and Human Rights, Public Order, Transport, Finance, Civil House and Healthy Aging.

San Francisco


San Francisco has built a dedicated webpage and a dedicated news alert service by text.

The city has adopted a strategy of "shelter in place", which requires that all but essential workers remain at home, to protect the most vulnerable. The City issued a moratorium on residential evictions related to financial impacts caused by COVID-19 (i.e. loss of income related to a business closure, loss of hours or wages, layoffs, or out-of-pocket medical costs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic). The eviction moratorium is in effect for 30 days, and can be extended by the Mayor for another 30 days through an Executive Order. Residents are encouraged to call rather than visit directly their health care provider and to go to the emergency room only if essential.

San Jose


San Jose has implemented COVID-19 assistance for the homeless. Steps taken to assist this vulnerable group include: Suspending encampment abatements to avoid putting anyone at risk unintentionally; Providing handwashing stations, portable toilets, and water to encampments; Expanding shelter capacity and keeping seasonal shelters open; Sending outreach teams to encampments to help individuals understand how to protect themselves ; Requesting faith-based shelter providers expand their services; Identifying individuals who are 50+ with chronic conditions who need to be sheltered or separated; and, Developing protocols for transporting individuals when isolation or quarantine is necessary.

Sao Paulo


The state has expanded measures to combat COVID-19 and reserved a thousand new intensive care beds.

The city of Sao Paulo is developing an assistance protocol for treating suspected or confirmed cases (i.e. standardised services and specific criteria for hospitalisation of patients, digital monitoring through telemedicine).



In early March, all public activities initiated by the Municipality of Sintra and those in which the municipality participated were suspended. Knowing that it was necessary to keep people away from places of greater affluence, in the second week of March, the municipality decided to close all municipal buildings for culture, sport and leisure, such as the cultural centre, swimming pools, museums, studios, gyms, among others. A strong conditioning in public attendance was also decided.

Regarding the workers of the municipality, the vast majority are teleworking, with only a small group considered indispensable, which includes the offices of the President and Councillors, as well as all those who have responsibilities in health, hygiene and civil protection, remain physically in service.

The municipality of Sintra did not suspend any of the ongoing investments and continues to comply with all the contracts it signed even when contractors suspended their activities (i.e. nurseries, theatres, orchestras, bands, ranches, etc.).

The City Council decided to suspend for 3 months (until 30/06) all rents paid by inhabitants of social housing and non-profit associations (IPSS’s, Sports and Cultural Associations). Together, these measures will cover approximately 1 700 families and 70 associations.

Tel Aviv-Yafo


The Municipality uses some of these digital tools, as well as developing applications on its own to support cutting-edgework methods. The city launched an initiative called Big Brother, in which high school students teach elementary schoolers as part of the Personal Commitment project. To ensure direct access for all pupils, the city distributed 750 laptops and more than 100 tablets to children who do not own devices suitable for remote learning.

The Social Services Administration’s normal response to populations with special needs (children and youth at-risk, cases of domestic violence, homeless people and substance abusers) has been substantially expanded during the past few weeks.

The Municipality launched the “Stay at Home” campaign, urging residents to stay in their homes and offering a wide range of activities to stave off boredom.

Following the outbreak of the crisis, the Municipality spearheaded a relief package for business owners, which was also approved by Forum 15, the Israeli Forum of Self-Government Cities(municipalities that are fiscally autonomous and not dependent on national balancing or development grants).The relief package includes: an exemption from paying municipal taxes for three months (reflecting a 25% discount on the yearly tax bill), jointly funded by the government and the Municipality; an exemption from the fees charged for placing tables and chairs and/or putting up a partition on the sidewalk; an exemption from the fee charged for a night time operating license; and postponement of the mandatory dismantlement of the glass-walled extensions used in wintertime by restaurants and cafes. Aviv-Yafo Municipalitys Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.pdf



Tokyo has created a one-stop database on the real-time COVID-19 situation, including the number of infected people, their status, features (age, gender), number of inquiries to the call centre, number of people using subways. It also provides open-data and source code of webpage, so that other municipalities and institutions can use these data and replicate similar webpages.

The city is providing subsidies for small and medium sized enterprises to support the cost of installing equipment and software to promote teleworking. It has also developed an emergency loan programme and free consulting services for SMEs that are affected by the crisis.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government promotes among municipal staff to do teleworking every day and is encouraging private companies to introduce flexible working hours. The city has cancelled or postponed large events and closed many public facilities including schools.

Tokyo announced it would issue a one-time payment for SMEs who showed their full cooperation in response to Tokyo’s requests and calls for cooperation to prevent further spread of the virus, such as suspending the use of their facilities. In addition, it is taking specific measures to support. SMEs and other companies, such as providing subsidies for introduction of necessary equipment and software required for teleworking through an emergency loan programme and free consulting services for SMEs that are affected by the crisis.

The Governor delivers live broadcasts in Japanese almost every day to deliver Tokyo’s latest updates on this virus and other relevant information, which is also aired in English every Friday.

The city had established a new call centre, Tokyo COVID-19 Support Centre for Foreign Residents, to respond to a range of inquiries from foreign nationals on April 17th, which is available in 14 languages including English, Chinese and others.

Venice, Veneto Region


Venice conducted an extraordinary disinfection of boats, gondolas and buses in the early stage of the pandemic. In line with national directives, the Biennale di Venezia has been postponed to August – it should have commenced in May.



In view of the expected increase in the number of people infected, the City of Vienna is converting an exhibition hall into a huge care room that provides food and basic medical care. The facility is intended to host people with mild symptoms who do not need to go to hospital, but who have difficulty caring for themselves at home.

The City of Vienna has commissioned Atos, a global leader in digital transformation, to develop and implement an Epidemic Management System (EMS) to support the control of the spread of infectious diseases. Due to the ongoing current COVID-19 crisis, EpiSYS, a digital platform, which stores and manages all patient data and data related to the virus - including tracking and tracing patient incident reports, in real-time – have been made available to other municipalities and provinces in Austria as well.

The City of Vienna now offers its free Förderung 2.0 (“Support 2.0”) tutoring initiative for 10-14 year- olds, which offers additional support in the subjects of German, Mathematics and English for lower secondary students.



Yokohama closed schools and prepared special programmes in elementary schools for the children who could not be cared for at home. The city started video distribution of the lessons for elementary, junior high and high school students (about 270,000) by internet from April 8th, cooperating with an e-learning system company. They are planning to make 100 to 200 videos (about 10 - 15 minutes each) per week for many subjects. As there might be students who cannot access the internet, some of the lessons were made to be available to watch at the sub channel of local TV station (TV Kanagawa) from April 20th.

Events supervised by the city have been cancelled or postponed and city facilities (libraries, sports centres, museums, etc.) closed.

The city established a special consulting office for small and medium sized enterprises that provides special financing schemes for businesses. A stock of 500,000 surgical masks was distributed to elderly and child welfare institutions.

Yokohama also strengthened the distribution of the information related to COVID-19 to the foreigners staying in the city, through its affiliated foundation, “Yokohama Association for International Communication and Exchanges (YOKE)”. YOKE has created website, gathering the relevant information, especially in English and Chinese (there is a large Chinatown in Yokohama.).

The city accepts applications for municipal housing (50 units) from people who lost their residence because of lay-offs (evacuated from dormitory, etc.) or who cannot pay the rent due to decreases in income, from May 1st. Housing will be offered at the lowest rate for at least 6 months (which can be extended to one year).

copy the linklink copied!Annex 1.B. Selected examples of organisations’ responses to the COVID-19 crisis in cities

Various global institutions have launched initiatives to facilitate best practice sharing between cities. Like the OECD initiative, these actions collect first-hand experiences and encourage collective responses s across the globe.

Bloomberg Philanthropies is virtually convening experts in public health and city leadership. Along with partners at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies launched a new programme of support to help American mayors respond to the rapidly evolving corona virus crisis. In partnership with the National League of Cities, Bloomberg Philanthropies launched the COVID-19: Local Action Tracker205. It features a sortable grid detailing the policy decisions and actions that city leaders across the United States are making to contain the spread of the virus and respond to community impact. City leaders can submit their actions to be included on the tracker, which will be updated daily to reflect the rapid developments of the crisis. Actions such as testing protocols, curfews, donation drives, and food programmes will be highlighted to give leaders insight into emerging practices and what is working in cities206.

C40 Cities has established a Global Mayors COVID-19 Recovery Task Force to drive forward an economic recovery that improves public health, reduces inequality and addresses the climate crisis. The Task Force will explore ways for the economic recovery from COVID-19 to get people back to work, while ensuring climate breakdown doesn’t become an even bigger crisis for the global economy and the lives and livelihoods of communities worldwide. The members of the task force are: Chair of the Task Force Mayor of Milan, Italy, Giuseppe Sala; Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Yvonne Aki Sawyerr; Secretary for the Environment of Hong Kong, China, KS Wong; Mayor of Lisbon, Portugal, Fernando Medina; Mayor of Rotterdam, Netherlands, Ahmed Aboutaleb; Mayor of Medellín, Colombia, Daniel Quintero Calle; Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Australia, Sally Capp; Mayor of Montréal, Canada, Valérie Plante; Mayor of New Orleans, USA, LaToya Cantrell; Mayor of Seattle, USA, Jenny Durkan; Mayor of Seoul, South Korea, Won-soon Park207.

Cities for Global Health, led by Metropolis, is part of the "Live Learning Experience: beyond the immediate response to the outbreak", developed by UCLG and supported by UN-Habitat. They have developed a collaborative online platform that offers access to knowledge, strategies and actionable plans implemented by local and regional governments around the globe. This virtual space highlights what cities are doing with specific initiatives or plans to fight the COVID-19 outbreak208. The coalition is also hosting a series of virtual exchanges on specific topics related to the role of public service delivery between cities and partners209.

Core Cities UK “Strengthening the Core” Programme strives to protect the 26% of the UK’s economy that city regions already deliver; safeguard the economies of surrounding towns and cities; and build the strongest possible recovery. As a group including cities within England and the Devolved Administrations, it provides a UK-wide network that can act now to create immediate and accountable impact on the ground. In the short-to-medium term, the organisation is drawing up some detailed proposals on how recovery can happen by sector within cities and their eco systems. This is done by working on local government financial resilience, gathering together big, catalytic projects across cities that can act as stimulus to regional and national economy and reimagining the future of cities.

Eurocities is compiling examples of city actions on its webpage dedicated to the COVID-19 crisis.210 Each entry provides a short summary of the city action, followed by a link to a more detailed description in the city’s (or other dedicated) website. Eurocities has also released a preliminary overview of measures to mitigate the socio-economic impact of COVID-19211.

The European Commission’s Intelligent Cities Challenge has launched a wider support package for COVID-19212 to facilitate learning and the sharing of best practices on effective city-led interventions from European and global cities. The aim of this initiative is to help cities navigate the current crisis and implement appropriate responses.

The European Territorial Cooperation Program (URBACT) is currently gathering and mapping all responses to the pandemic in European cities213. Several National URBACT Points are actively engaging their cities in gathering more information about this topic and feeding this page. Measures pertaining to supporting local businesses is a notable concern for cities in most OECD Member States.

The Global Parliament of Mayors (GPM) launched a “Mayors Act Now Campaign” on its website and the Virtual Parliament to keep mayors connected during the pandemic and share local and regional initiatives worldwide214.

The Global Resilient Cities Network (GRCN)215 and the World Bank are convening a weekly online Speakers Series on how cities are responding to COVID-19. As partners of the Making Cities Resilient Campaign, they are opening select sessions on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Local 2030 has held a call on Local COVID-19 Response and Recovery to develop messages and a Call to Action for local level capacity building, financing and continued incorporation of SDG mainstreaming (principles of inclusion, sustainability, and leaving no one behind) into preparedness, response and recovery phases. The initiative aims to identify mechanisms for partners to more regularly connect and exchange solutions regarding the COVID-19 response.

Metropolis has launched the Cities for Global Health216 initiative, co-led with the Euro-Latin-American Alliance of Cooperation among Cities, AL-LAs, and is part of the Live Learning Experience: beyond the immediate response to the outbreak, developed by UCLG and supported by UN-Habitat and Metropolis. Cities for Global Health aims to quickly share public information to face major health emergencies in urban areas and collects initiatives (i.e. plans, strategies, policies) designed specifically as a reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak as well as initiatives designed to face other health emergencies such as sanitary crisis or epidemics.

OPEN IDEO (IDEO’s open innovation practice that enables people worldwide to come together and build solutions for today's toughest societal problems.) is currently co-ordinating with global response authorities who want to make sure people have actionable, relevant information around COVID-19. They are seeking to share a range of experiences from around the world, demonstrating how people are accessing information217.

UNESCO has launched a call for stories to collect information on local interventions to address the vulnerability of specific groups that have limited access to the services provided in response to the pandemic, and on city-level initiatives that are specifically conducted to fight discrimination and stigma in all its forms.

United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) is currently focusing on information sharing in collaboration with the Global Network of Local Authorities. The Global City Platform has already collected more than 295 experiences of cities around the world. A forum called the live learning experience218 has been organised for mayors to exchange on key issues stemming from the pandemic, such as solutions for homeless people, the continuity of transports so that people can reach hospitals and other essential services and the digital divide inasmuch as it affects children and their education. There is also a debate on immigration and the rights of migrants and food security as well as access to culture, as a solution for both the sustenance of workers of culture as well as citizen services. A debate is held every week on this forum to discuss on the different points and discussion is currently shifting to how cities will be dealing with the recovery process.

The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) has launched an initiative on local government finance for COVID-19 responses. Every preventive and containment measure requires resources and has a fiscal aspect. To finance their epidemic response, local governments rely on three major sources: own revenues, intergovernmental transfers and sub-national borrowing. The UNCDF aims to provide guidance to local governments on immediate responses and provide key dimensions of successful responses.

What Works Cities has put together a COVID-19: Local Government Response and Resource Bank for local government leaders219. This is a curated list of city examples, resources, and commentary that may offer helpful insights to local governments.

The World Economic Forum (WEF), acting as partner to the World Health Organisation (WHO), is mobilising all stakeholders to protect lives and livelihoods in the fight against COVID-19. The WEF has launched a strategic intelligence tool220, providing information on three priority areas: galvanising the global business community for collective action, protecting people’s livelihoods and facilitating business continuity, and mobilising cooperation and business support for the COVID-19 response221.


This note was drafted by a core OECD team composed of Soo-Jin Kim, Kate Brooks, Oriana Romano and Elisa Elliott Alonso, with inputs from Claire Charbit, Tadashi Matsumoto, Aline Matta, Kenza Khachani, Camille Viros, Klara Fritz, Oscar Huerta Melchor, under the supervision of Aziza Akhmouch, Head of the Cities, Urban Policies and Sustainable Development Division in the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities.



Alexandra TAYLOR (✉

More information is available at


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← 87.

← 88.

← 89.

← 90.

← 91.

← 93.

← 100.

← 102.

← 109.

← 120.

← 121.

← 132.

← 149.

← 153.

← 155.

← 156.

← 159.

← 160.

← 162.

← 164.

← 165.

← 167.

← 180.

← 196.


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