The answer to the question depends somewhat on how the city is defined – in large cities like London, the effects of the coronavirus have been very different to other areas. The financial centre of London now resembles a ghost town, as offices have been empty for months at a time and restaurants and services catering to those offices have gone without customers, forcing closures. One article in November 2020 counted 63 restaurants in Central London that had closed. The rise of working-from-home means the future of this area of the city is unsure – perhaps not dead, more like in a coma.
Furthermore, the death of the current modern city can be deemed as permanent due to the fact that there is a requirement for the emergence of a ‘renaissance’ within planning thought and theory. A new and innovative abstraction is necessary in order for society to become better accustomed to a post-pandemic city.
Local neighbourhoods have seen very different effects – due to everybody staying within their local areas, many have been reinvigorated. According to a BBC News article in September 2020, the local supermarket group Co-op planned to open 50 new stores between publication of the article and the end of the year. Despite online deliveries increasing massively over the lockdown period, corner shops remain busy. This boost, while strong during lockdown, could change if restrictions continued for a longer period, as remote working may result in people moving away from cities.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to many temporary and permanent changes that will significantly impact the urban layout and environment of cities. For instance, lockdown restrictions have caused the acceleration of the digital era as E-commerce has leaped forward 5 to 10 years during 2020, with lasting impact on shopping centres and areas. Similarly, there will likely be a strong impact on office space given the significant growth in home office workers. Whether this shift is permanent or not, will also depend on each individual, or business for that matter, and the method that works best for them, whether remotely or in person. The fear of something similar happening again might also come into play, making these changes somewhat permanent.
Although, some permanent changes have occurred in cities and perceptions have been shifted, we are able to identify the death of cities cause by the COVID-19 pandemic as temporary due to the inevitable economically driven obligations for reopening commercial and communal facilities, rebirthing the city so that society can efficiently circulate within it. For instance, experiencing activities linked to cultural and creative opportunities remotely, is certainly not the same.
To conclude, it is not possible to say whether the death of cities will be a permanent or a temporary change. However, the pandemic has undoubtedly taught us that if cities are to survive, we must adapt. Businesses and public areas will be functioning much differently.