UNNC researcher helps strengthen Ningbo’s COVID-19 resilience

21 February 2020

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Cover page of the document sent to municipal government

The sudden and unexpected outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has tested the adaptability and robustness of many Chinese cities as they rise to the challenge.

Ningbo is no exception.

For Dr. Ali Cheshmehzangi, Associate Professor in Architecture and Urban Design at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC), how to ensure and improve Ningbo’s virus resilience has been a priority since the start of the outbreak.

Dr. Cheshmehzangi recently proposed a “Comprehensive Urban Resilience Framework” to the municipal government of Ningbo, which he hopes will help to protect citizens during the outbreak and return life swiftly to normal after it.

Shortly after submitting the proposal, Ningbo Urban Infrastructure Development Centre replied to Dr. Cheshmehzangi on 19th February, recognising the potential to collaborate and see this framework implemented in Ningbo.

In the letter to Dr. Cheshmehzangi, Ningbo Urban Infrastructure Development Centre commented, “Facing the serious epidemic, you, as a new Ningboer, embody towards the city your high-level senses of responsibility, belongingness and professionalism, to which we are very impressed and moved.

“We are very interested in your Comprehensive Urban Resilience Framework and related concepts. It is gratifying that the measures we have taken in this incident coincide with the contents of many indicators in your framework, which shows that there is great potential to implement this resilient city framework in Ningbo.”

This framework is intended to aid the city administration with sound decision-making by performing self-evaluation on two key indicators - management and provision – with the former looking at institutional and operational aspects, and the latter at service and supply.

According to the framework, each of these two indicators is then divided into five dimensions, referring to the specific systems that are essential to the city, including healthcare, food-supply, transportation and more. Each of the dimensions is given a set of criteria to assess resilience, both “during-the-epidemic” phase and the post-epidemic recovery phase.

Dr. Cheshmehzangi believes that only by bringing together a range of systems - and thinking holistically - can a city be truly resilient.

“Ningbo is facing a major test, not just its ability to combat the virus but to stay in a good condition in all other sectors. Without a comprehensive plan, the city could become vulnerable.” he said.

Dr. Cheshmehzangi said he had the idea about the framework as early as 25th January, when the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan was starting to attract national attention. He says that he positively spent the extended Spring Festival break working on the project.

“It certainly is a good time to learn how to be more resilient, both individually and collectively. We have to think positively or else the sense of fear becomes more dangerous than the virus.”

Even when the situation was severe, he didn’t think about leaving Ningbo.

Dr. Cheshmehzangi said: “This is where I live, and with the control measures being taken, the campus is the safest place we could be. Days ago I posted on WeChat that ‘with China and the Chinese people, we stand strong!’ I still believe in that, and I still believe we will get through this difficult time.”

Dr. Cheshmehzangi hopes that together with municipal authorities, the framework can inform policy-making and make the city better prepared against future adversities.

As academics, our research should reflect any situation we may face, and if we can support our community we must not hesitate. In fact, it can be most rewarding.

Dr. Ali Cheshmehzangi