Considerations regarding healthy city after COVID-19

The 2020 SEOUL DESIGN INTERNATONAL FORUM has obtained written consent from the speaker to publish the summarized and edited content

SPEAKER: Nam Eun Woo (Professor, Healthy City Research Center Institute of Health and Welfare in Yonsei University)

1. Statistical figures on the status of coronavirus outbreaks by city in Korea

Since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in South Korea on January 20, 2020, the coronavirus has spread rapidly in Korea, peaking on February 29, 2020. Since then, there has been a rapid re-spreading trend twice up to October, and the capital city, Seoul, has 53.13 confirmed cases per 100,000 population, the third highest number after Daegu and Gyeonggi-do.


Incidence rate per 100,000 people in 17 provinces in Korea


Incidence rate in 25 districts per 100,000 population in Seoul

In Daegu, the case with the highest incidence rate was the highest as an exception because the number of cases was rapidly increased by a special religious group, and the region with the second highest incidence rate is Seoul. Various interpretations are possible by looking at the rate of corona infection by city. The reason for the high rate of confirmed cases in Daegu is not a problem with Daegu's urban design, but rather an issue related to religious groups. According to the analyzed data, the number of confirmed cases in Seoul is statistically classified as being related to a lot of traffic. There may be several input variables other than traffic, but as a result of analysis focusing on traffic volume, Seoul, Gyeonggi, and Incheon had a high incidence, and this was published as a thesis in the Journal of International Infectious Diseases.


Looking at the figure above, as a result of analyzing the confirmed cases in Korea for seven days in early October 2020, the number of patients in Gyeonggi-do and Seoul is significantly higher. Looking at the status of the number of differentiated patients in Seoul per 10,000 people, statistically, Gyeonggi-do and Seoul were classified as particularly dangerous areas nationwide. However, this can be seen as a phenomenon caused by a special religious group. Next, Yangpyeong in Gyeonggi-do ranked 14th, Uiseong in Gyeongsangbuk-do ranked 15th, Gwanak-gu in Seoul ranked 16th, Cheongyang-gun in Chungcheongnam-do, Seongbuk-gu in Seoul, and Pocheon and Gapyeong in Gyeonggi-do followed. The cause cannot be identified due to lack of epidemiological data, but it is the result of classifying the incidence into 20 ranks with statistical data from the Ministry of Health and Welfare.


Ranking of the incidence rate per 100,000 population nationwide(Top 20) – 2020.10.10

2. Why Healthy City Design is Necessary in Urban Planning

The statistics on the Corona Zero area, which we should be mainly concerned with, can be understood by connecting the concept of a slow city. As of October 2020, the number of coronavirus cases confirmed in Yanggu-gun, Namwon-si, and Jinan-gun, Gangwon-do, which is currently running a healthy city project and cities in the process of slow city projects such as Yanggu, Jeongseon-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do, Ulleungdo, and Dokdo in Gangwon-do, appears as zero. In addition, cities such as Sunchang, Buan, Goheung, Gangjin, and Jangheung are promoting healthy city projects and are actively promoting healthy aging projects. The project includes the concept of a slow city, and the characteristics of the aforementioned cities are relatively isolated from transportation, and thus the transportation system construction is insufficient. In this passage, we can see whether it is a good plan to build a city's transportation system to help with convenient movement, or is it a good plan to design a city that can solve everything within the area with the concept of a slow city or a compact city? 

3. Planning a Healthy City in the Age of Coronavirus

3.1. Rethinking accessibility between cities or airports and ports

A characteristic of a city is that various fields are connected by a network, and in particular, they are influenced by neighboring cities and the surrounding environment. Judging from the fact that Seoul and Gyeonggi-do have similar incidence rates in the previous statistical data, it can be seen that Seoul and Gyeonggi-do have the same living area, which shows that our city can be affected by the problems of neighboring cities. In particular, large cities are connected to other cities through airports, and in the case of Busan, a large port called Busan Port plays a pivotal role in the city network. It is necessary to check whether the city is operating. The higher the population density, the higher the risk of the spread of infectious diseases depending on public toilets, water supply and sewerage facilities, and sanitation environment. It is time to reflect on whether it is truly good city planning.

3.2. Strategies to reduce population density

Cases in cities where the coronavirus has occurred have mainly shown that areas with high population density are areas with a relatively high risk of spreading infectious diseases. In the design of cities of the future, workers in the transport sector, public health policymakers, and infectious diseases physicians who treat the coronavirus must be invited to participate and share their opinions. In the past, we had the perception that the residential complex type was a good building structure, but now that the risk of infectious diseases is spreading, it can be perceived as a facility that should be avoided. You have to relocate a crowded crosswalk, think about the size of a large mart, and think about how to disperse cultural or religious facilities where a large number of people gather. Even in public transportation, which is highly dependent on urban residents, it is possible to introduce a public transportation system or try new seating arrangements in consultation with transportation experts. As such, it is necessary to devise a strategy to decentralize the high density of the current urban structure.

3.3. Ecological quarantine

Many green belts in Seoul and Gyeonggi-do have not been developed and are maintained in a neglected state. It is necessary to reexamine these issues in a sustainable way without over-development.


Green building: ACROS Fukuoka(Fukuoka Tenjin Park) - Ecological quarantine effect

The most effective quarantine effect against the coronavirus is a vaccine, but the development and effectiveness are still uncertain, so designers and city designers should think more deeply and seriously about the ecological quarantine problem. The city hall building in Fukuoka or the Cheonggyecheon Green City Plan, one of Seoul's successful projects, can be effective examples of ecological quarantine. Expanding bike lanes is also conceivable, which is a means of social distancing and a way to mitigate the use of multi-use transport facilities.


Cheonggyecheon Green City Plan – Ecological Prevention Effect

In terms of urban design for virus prevention, WHO's pandemic response guidelines for building healthy cities have been published. We need to apply these guidelines to urban design, especially using a risk communication concept that is approached visually for information sharing.

4. Coronavirus zero city, is it possible?

Where are the key areas for prevention and management of infectious disease viruses? And what is our role?

First, we need to analyze the characteristics of each city and identify the areas where the high frequency of virus infection occurs through an epidemiological method. Second, it should be possible to share accurate information by actively utilizing the aforementioned risk communication. Various means may exist, and depending on the communication method, if the information on quarantine and the actual information delivered by the media are different, it may cause confusion and it needs attention. Third, an appropriate response strategy should be devised according to the situation. To prevent the spread of the virus through the respiratory tract, it is important to recommend public health measures, social distancing, hygiene and respiratory etiquette to citizens. Therefore, it is necessary to give priority to public health value and to derive a design problem solution in consideration of hygiene and convenience. Fourth, access to health and medical services should be improved. It should be designed so that access to medical facilities, including testing, can be expedited. Korea's drive-through test has been well received worldwide, and it has a great effect in that it can avoid unnecessary contact and reduce the demand for medical facilities along with the rapid test.


UK’s Social Prescribing

In terms of software rather than hardware construction, the British social prescribing example can be referred to. Social prescription is a system in which doctors recommend and prescribe social activities along with medical prescriptions for patients with chronic diseases or mental health problems. Social prescribing planning includes a variety of activities that are usually provided by voluntary community organizations. Examples include volunteering, art activities, group learning, gardening, cooking classes, healthy eating advice and a variety of sports. London City Hall has expanded its social prescription project during the COVID-19 pandemic. We can see from the example of the UK campaign that in terms of urban design, social activities in various areas such as music, art, employment, green space, service, and movement can be envisioned in order to build a healthy city.

In addition to medical vaccination, ecological quarantine, behavioral prevention, psychological prevention, and social prescription programs can be used to build a “COVID-19 Zero Healthy City”. And during the pandemic or later on the way to recovery, cities will have to phase out their COVID-19 measures. COVID-19 is expected to change the public health model. The emergency measures implemented by each city to respond to the infectious disease crisis should be the basis for sustainable development in preparation for current or future health emergencies. In particular, attention and social prescriptions for the socially vulnerable and the elderly will be more helpful in improving their health and well-being.

Category related contents
Hashtag related contents