Emergency crisis management is the top priority for cities in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis but providing financial lifelines, emergency food supplies and housing for those at risk needs to be high on the list, said experts from Milan and London.
Better involving the private sector and coordinating volunteers can also provide extra support to cities on the frontline, who are already cautiously looking ahead at how to rebuild their economies in the aftermath of the pandemic, they told a webinar.
“At the end of this emergency, we will have the second crisis, the economic and social crisis,” Piero Pelizzaro, Milan’s Chief Resilience Officer told a Global Resilient Cities Network (GRCN) webinar.
“We cannot wait until the end to start thinking how we can respond to that, because that could be even bigger than what we are facing at the moment.”
At part of its “Cities on the Frontline” campaign, GRCN’s weekly webinars in conjunction with the World Bank are highlighting the actions cities are taking to cope with COVID-19.
Currently under lockdown, as the virus rips through the surrounding Lombardy region, Milan has swung a three-tiered task force that focuses on emergency response, community support, and post-emergency planning for the city, “Plan Zero”.
Relieving the financial pressure on the thousands of people — from restaurant workers to shopkeepers and taxi drivers — whose incomes dried up due to the shutdown is a major priority for Milan which has set up a mutual aid fund to provide support, said Pelizzaro.
In London, which is now also under lockdown, city authorities are prioritizing the welfare of health workers, while setting up food supplies for vulnerable families, said Alice Reeves, the Greater London Authority’s Deputy Chief Resilience Officer.
Bring businesses on board
Finding hotel rooms and hostels to allow London’s homeless to self-isolate is another challenge for Europe’s biggest metropolis which is learning lessons from other cities already mired in the COVID-19 crisis.
Both Milan and London are also looking for ways to better involve the private sector with food providers, technology, and real estate companies among those offering services and support.
With medical staff and emergency workers already stretched to the limits, finding ways to coordinate charities and thousands of volunteers is also essential to ensure some of the most vulnerable groups are protected.
In London, a special task force is helping manage thousands of volunteers but there also needs to be a provision in place to protect their psychological welfare, said Reeves.
Planning ahead for when life starts to return to normal will be crucial for cities where many businesses are paying a high price for the shutdowns prompted by the pandemic, said the experts.
It’s also an opportunity to build back better, with a focus on greener, more sustainable businesses that are prepared to cope with future climate-related crises.
“With the climate crisis in mind, there is a balance we’re going to need to strike between a high-speed dash to rebuild the economy… and finding a way to be able to influence that for positive change,” said Reeves.
“Emergency Measures, Support for the Communities and Plan Zero”
Piero Pelizzaro, Chief Resilience Officer, Municipality of Milan
“Planning for Coronavirus in London”
Alice Reeves, Deputy Chief Resilience Officer, Greater London Authority