Urban public health emergencies and the COVID-19 pandemic. Part 1: Social and spatial inequalities in the COVID-city

Scott Orford, Yingling Fan, Philip Hubbard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


COVID-19 has had unprecedented impacts on urban life on a global scale, representing the worst pandemic in living memory. In this introduction to the first of two parts of a Special Issue on urban public health emergencies, we suggest that the COVID-19 outbreak, and associated attempts to manage the pandemic, reproduced and ultimately exacerbated the social and spatial divides that striate the contemporary city. Here, we draw on evidence from the papers in Part 1 of the Special Issue to summarise the uneven urban geographies of COVID-19 evident at the inter- and intra-urban level, emphasising the particular vulnerabilities and risks borne by racialised workers who found it difficult to practise social distancing in either their home or working life. Considering the interplay of environmental, social and biological factors that conspired to create hotspots of COVID-19 infection, and the way these are connected to the racialised capitalism that underpins contemporary urban development, this introduction suggests that reflection on public health emergencies in the city is not just essential from a policy perspective but helps enrich theoretical debates on the nature of contemporary urbanisation in its ‘planetary’ guise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1329-1345
Number of pages17
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Urban Studies Journal Limited 2023.


  • COVID-19
  • pandemic
  • social inequalities
  • spatial inequalities
  • world city

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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