Since the Pandemic Began, What Global Cities Are Most Safe?

The Economist Intelligence Unit's Safe Cities Index offers some surprises

Toronto placed high on the Safe Cities Index.
Zia Syed/Unsplash

Every country has its own way of dealing with the pandemic. In some, the measures being used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 vary differently from city to city or from region to region. All of this is a way of saying that trying to figure out which cities around the world can be considered safest is no easy task.

The 2021 Safe Cities Index, a new report from The Economist, represents a way of comparing and quantifying different municipal policies. It’s worth mentioning that this isn’t a new initiative; instead, this is the fourth time The Economist has taken an in-depth look at the world’s cities, evaluating 60 total. But this year, as the BBC reports, “pandemic preparedness and COVID-19 mortality” were both among the factors contributing to the overall ranking.

The five cities at the top of the list of 60 total will probably not surprise you — Copenhagen, Toronto, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo. But there’s a lot more to the list and to this data, including a number of cities in the United States that placed in the top 20.

Some additional takeaways from the report:

Don’t underestimate parks and green spaces. As the BBC’s analysis points out, The Economist factored “environmental security” into their rankings this time out. But that’s not just a standalone category — having more desirable outdoor spaces helped Copenhagen manage the pandemic better than most cities. (Something that’s true for Denmark as a whole as well.) And Copenhagen wasn’t the only city to earn points for this — Sydney’s open-air workspaces, known as ChillOUT Hubs, also drew praise.

Five cities in the United States made the top 20. The five cities at the top of the listings all accumulated 80 or more points. (Copenhagen’s rating was 82.4; Tokyo’s was an even 80.) New York City (#12) had a rating of 77.8, followed by Washington, DC (#14, 77.4), San Francisco (#18, 77.2), Los Angeles (#18, 76.5) and Chicago (#20, 75).

Bold pandemic responses got results. In the BBC’s analysis, one recurring theme is the cities who addressed the pandemic decisively. That doesn’t mean there was one standard response that fit all cities, but both Singapore’s methods of monitoring and Copenhagen’s use of widespread testing bolstered their rankings.

If your city wasn’t on the index, you can still get a sense of how it compares to those that were. There’s one caveat: you’re going to need to have some data handy. Everything from COVID-19 mortality rates to the percentage of tree cover factors in to a city’s rating.

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