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Image : Sebastian,

Managing the COVID-19 Pandemic in Poor Urban Neighbourhoods

An ETH Zurich Development Economics Group research project.

ETH Development Economics Group
Image : Photo by George Kantartzis on Unsplash

In order to understand how the urban poor mitigate their risk of infection, the ETH conducted a survey with more than 1400 poor households in two of the African cities with the most COVID-​​19 infections, Accra and Greater Johannesburg, early in the pandemic, during lockdowns of public life.

They find that many of the urban poor already engage in the appropriate hygienic behavior and follow social distancing rules. Lack of cooperation with governmental regulations seems to be more related to a lack of infrastructure or poverty rather than unwillingness to engage in behavioral change.

Interestingly, even with the stricter lockdown in South Africa, people are at least equally likely to deviate from social distancing rules. Our results indicate that more South African respondents perceive their government’s actions as too extreme and underestimate COVID-​​19 cases in their country.

The ETH concludes that a costly shutdown of public life is only effective—and might even be prevented—with a well-​​informed population, who perceives their government’s actions as appropriate and who has access to the infrastructure required to follow WHO safety regulations.

Learn more about the project and its publications

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