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UCL Geography and Covid-19


It has long been recognised that epidemics and pandemics are geographical problems, with several dimensions. First, their spread is never universal. Disease is clustered in specific regions, and particular urban districts and locations, and affects the population in uneven ways. The spread of disease needs to be both traced statistically, but also mapped geographically. Second, geographers have been attentive to ways in which pandemics are global problems, with markedly different and unequal consequences for health and social and economic life in different parts of the world. Third, geographical research attends to the relation between wider political and economic transformations and structures and the spread of disease. Fourth, there is growing geographical interest in the political and economic geography of scientific expertise, including the practice of contact tracing, tracking, testing, vaccine trials and development. Finally, the covid-19 pandemic has disruptive and unpredictable consequences that are comparable in scale to major geopolitical events such as wars and revolutions. In this light, the pandemic demands that we address the critical role of physical and biological processes and nonhuman agencies (from climate change to viruses) in human history. Research in UCL Geography is shedding light on all of these aspects of the covid-19 pandemic.

Professor Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (Professor of Human Geography) has written an article exploring refugee-led local responses in the time of Covid-19 in North Lebanon (link) and has contributed to a Channel 4 News programme, in which she discusses  how Covid-19 is impacting people living in poverty around the world (link). Elena's research project, Refugee Hosts, has launched a mini-blog series exploring the ways that refugees are experiencing, and responding to, Covid-19.

Professor Ayona Datta (Professor of Human Geography) has reflected on ‘Survival Infrastructures in the Time of Coronavirus’ in a Podcast produced by UCL Institute of Advanced Studies and in a blog post.

Professor James Cheshire (Professor of Geographic Information and Cartography) and Terje Trasberg have analysed measures derived from in-app phone data to chart how activity levels have changed in major UK cities during the period of lockdown. Their research demonstrated that activity levels in London declined more than in other urban metropolitan areas (Financial Times, May 12th 2020).

Dr Pushpa Arabindoo (Associate Professor in Geography and Urban Design) has published a commentary, 'Pandemic cities: Between mimicry and trickery', based on reflections from Chennai in the journal Cities and Society. It responds to the current situation in which residential lockdown has become the universal order of the day. In the conclusion she wonders how discourses on global urbanism will develop when the novelty of the current crisis wears off.
Arabindoo, A (2020) ‘Pandemic Cities: between mimicry and trickery’

Dr Amy Horton (Lecturer in Economic Geography) is developing collaborative research to investigate the impacts of covid-19 on the finances of care homes and the sustainability of the sector. With other UCL researchers, she is also preparing a possible project on how to sustain local economies and mutual aid that have developed during the period of lockdown. Further research in development would explore different ways of organising and financing care.
Horton, A. (2019) Financialization and non-disposable women: Real estate, debt and labour in UK care homes. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space.

Dr Peter Jones (Associate Professor of Environmental Governance) has written on the significance of Covid-19 for governance and the Green New Deal, drawing on his expertise in environmental governance. After Corona Virus: a comprehensive Green New Deal restores local jobs, benefits communities is effective in the fight against environmental breakdown and (with Professor Mark Maslin) What Covid-19 can teach us about governance. He argues that we need state intervention that is responsive to experts and to communities, now and as we fight climate breakdown and biodiversity loss.

Dr Alan Ingram (Associate Professor of Human Geography) has an expertise on geopolitics and biosecurity and written previously on biopolitics and HIV/AIDS. He is currently writing on the disruptive and unpredictable consequences of covid-19 as a geopolitical event (with Andrew Barry).
Ingram, A. (2010) Biosecurity and the international response to HIV/AIDS Area 42:3 293-301

Professor Andrew Barry (Professor of Human Geography) is tracing claims concerning the acceleration of vaccine production (with Dr Ann Kelly, KCL), drawing on his earlier ethnographic research on the development of pharmaceutical drugs. He is also concerned (with Alan Ingram) with the question of how we might understand the disruptive and unpredictable consequences of covid-19 as a geopolitical event.

Professor Julian R. Thompson (Professor of Physical Geography) with colleagues in Italy and China has published a review in the journal Water Research of the potential for secondary transmission of coronavirus in the water environment.
Carducci, A., Federigi, I., Liu, D., Thompson, J.R., Verani, M. (2020). Making Waves: Coronavirus detection, presence and persistence in the water environment: state of the art and knowledge needs for public health. Water Research 179, 115907.
With former UCL Geography PhD student Dr Hong Yang (now at the University of Reading), Professor Thompson also commented in the BMJ on the challenge of fighting Covid-19 within prison environment.
Yang, H., Thompson, J.R. (2020). Fighting covid-19 outbreaks in prisons. BMJ 2020;369:m1362.