The Global Resilient Cities Network response to COVID-19 started in January, just before the Lunar New Year. Instead of exchanging season greetings with member city Huangshi, located less than two hours’ drive from Wuhan, the resilience Team shared their experience with a new virus with GRCN.
A few weeks later, while many governments were reluctant to sound the alarm, we realized our Network could not be. As Wu Zhiling, Huangshi’s CRO, shared in a letter to the Network, Coronavirus was the kind of global challenge — exacerbated by increasing urbanization and globalization — we had been preparing for.
“First and foremost, I would like to thank everyone for your concern and help towards the epidemic situation in Huangshi. As a member city of the Global Resilient Cities Network (formerly 100 Resilient Cities), our city has always placed resilience-building at the core of every aspect of our city’s urban management. This epidemic is not only a test of our city’s resilience but also provides a new direction for future resilience-building. We believe that with our combined efforts, we will emerge victorious!” said Wu Zhiling, Chief Resilience Officer of Huangshi City.
If we could take Huangshi’s learnings — and deliver the right messages to the right people, we could save lives. We focused our efforts on reaching to CROs first, from China, Singapore, Seoul, and Milan. To respond to their needs, we created a confidential communications channels to coordinate, exchange information, and link cities with tools and solutions. The first internal global channel was launched on February 29th.
However, the virus was quickly spreading, and we knew we had to open the conversation. In partnership with the World Bank City Resilience Program, GRCN launched an Online Speakers Series to promote wider knowledge exchange.
In the first weekly Coronavirus Speaker Session: Lessons from China, Dr. Yang Saini shared openly about the situation in Wuhan and the actions the city took to deal with COVID-19.
China struggled, at first, to pinpoint the source of the outbreak in Hubei province where overcrowded hospitals, a lack of resources, and inadequate public information initially complicated efforts. Then, several efforts contributed to a successful provincial effort to flatten the curve:
- Placing restrictions on travel and imposing strict quarantine measures stabilizing stabilized the outbreak that centered around the 15-million strong city of Wuhan.
- Pulling in over 40,000 medical staff from other cities to help in Wuhan, throwing up emergency hospitals, and turning sports stadiums and factories into make-shift hospitals proved vital.
- Cooperation with local businesses helped bolster emergency logistics.
The response to Lessons From China, from cities and practitioners around the world, surpassed expectations and inspired us to expand the conversation and continue to facilitate the exchange of knowledge between practitioners within the GRCN and beyond.
Dr. Yang Saini, Beijing Normal University’s Academy of Disaster Reduction & Emergency Management.
Presented on March 12, 2020
“How Smart Technologies combat the Coronavirus and Build Resilience”
Professor Ying Long, School of Architecture, Tsinghua University