The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted public health, the economy and society—both directly and indirectly. Few approaches exist to understand these complex impacts in a way that (1) acknowledges cross-sectoral interdependencies; (2) models how short-term shocks translate into impacts on longer-term outcomes; (3) builds in local, contextual variation; and (4) recognises a wide set of priorities. The Urban Systems Abstraction Hierarchy (USAH) is proposed as an approach with these capabilities, and applied to Edinburgh (UK) between March-October 2020 to identify city-level impacts of the pandemic and associated policy responses. Results show changing priorities in the system and suggest areas which should be targeted for future urban resilience planning in Edinburgh for both short-term shocks and long-term recovery. This makes both methodological contributions (in the form of testing a new complex systems approach) and practical contributions (in the form of city-specific results which inform different aspects of resilience) to urban science.


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Cite as

Beevers, L., Bedinger, M., McClymont, K., Morrison, D., Aitken, G. & Visser-Quinn, A. 2022, 'Modelling systemic COVID-19 impacts in cities', NPJ Urban Sustainability, 2, article no: 17. https://doi.org/10.1038/s42949-022-00060-2

Downloadable citations

Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
Last updated: 29 June 2022
Was this page helpful?