Last edited 30 Jun 2021

Pandemic migration


Pandemics such as COVID-19 can be more contagious in large cities for several reasons. As well as socioeconomic factors associated with quality of life, basic proximity factors can play a role in the spread of transmissible illnesses.

In urban settings, networks of buildings, crowded pavements and public transportation create conditions in which people often move in closer proximity to each other. During the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, many people were encouraged to work from home. The temporary shift to technology-based remote working opened up the possibility of a portion of the workforce permanently relocating away from urban settings.

This form of pandemic migration is being explored as a beneficial approach to dealing with the spread of highly-infectious illnesses.

The results of an October 2020 study conducted by Massimiliano Zanin and David Papo indicate that pandemic migration away from cities to less densely populated areas may help to reduce the spread of illnesses like COVID-19. In the study, Zanin and Papo simulated a forced migration that moved healthy people out of dense cities at the onset of a pandemic. The results showed that while movement from big cities to small towns might be slightly less safe for the people in small towns, overall, for a global pandemic situation, this reduction in the density of highly populated areas is better for the majority of people.

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