Only two Asian cities have found a place among the top 10 most liveable cities in the world in a report by The Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) Global Liveability Index released earlier this week
Among the 140 cities that were ranked on 30 indicators including stability, infrastructure, education, culture, environment, and how they handled the pandemic, Auckland in New Zealand topped the rankings.
In fact, of the top 10 most liveable cities in the world, six are in Australia and New Zealand. And the two Asian cities that found a place in the top 10 rankings are both from Japan.
The data for the annual survey was collected from 22 February 2020 to 21 March 2021, the period that witnessed multiple waves of the COVID-19 pandemic globally and how it affected liveability worldwide.
In its key findings, the Liveability Index found that the coronavirus majorly affected the liveability score of cities by their strong border closures along with their ability to handle the health crisis. The pace at which these cities rolled out vaccination campaigns also drove significant changes in the rankings.
The survey also found that healthcare scores fell after the onset of the pandemic in most cities across the world, with the least affected cities concentrated in western Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.
Osaka and Tokyo in Japan are the two Asian cities that were ranked among the top 10 cities, coming in second and fourth, respectively
According to the survey, this is due to the continued high stability scores.
Meanwhile, Auckland, which is the new leader, was able to move up from the sixth place in the EIU's previous survey due to strong border closures and a consequently low COVID-19 case count.
"Students have been able to continue going to school, giving Auckland a 100% score for education," it said, adding that Wellington has also gained from this relative freedom and moved to joint fourth place.
However, the country with the most number of cities in the top 10 list is Australia.
Adelaide was ranked third, while three more Australian cities — Perth, Melbourne, and Brisbane — were ranked sixth, eighth, and 10th, respectively, with Sydney in 11th place.
Two Swiss cities of Zurich and Geneva managed to maintain their places in the top 10.
Collectively, eight Asia-Pacific cities dominate the top 10.
While Asia-Pacific cities dominate this year's index, the biggest gainer is Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii. The city rose 46 places to 14th rank.
Honolulu witnessed a rise in its healthcare score of 33 points compared with the previous survey.
"Over half of Hawaii's residents have now received at least one dose of a vaccine. Positivity rates have also reduced, thereby imposing much lower stress on the city's healthcare infrastructure," it said.
The Spanish cities of Barcelona and Madrid also gained nearly 25 points for healthcare, as they coped better in terms of the stress on their healthcare systems compared with the previous wave of COVID-19.
In total, seven US cities dominate the biggest movers up the ranking category.
Overall, though, the pandemic caused liveability to decline with many of the cities that were previously ranked as the most liveable tumbling
In particular, European and Canadian countries fared poorly.
According to the report, Vienna, which was ranked the world's most liveable city in the previous survey, fell to the 12th position. While the biggest mover down overall was Hamburg, which fell 34 places to 47th.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on global liveability," said Upasana Dutt, head of Global Liveability at the EIU.
"Cities across the world are now much less liveable than they were before the pandemic began, and we've seen that regions such as Europe have been hit particularly hard."
Dutt noted that the cities that have risen to the top of the rankings this year are largely the ones that have taken stringent measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
"One area where there has been regrettably little change is at the bottom of our rankings. Damascus remains the world's least liveable city, as the effects of the civil war in Syria continue to take their toll. Indeed, most of the previous ten least liveable cities remain in the bottom ten this year," she added.
Meanwhile, the EIU global chief economist Simon Baptist said that although Asia has some of the world's most liveable cities, it also has some of the least liveable ones.
So, while cities in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan dominated the top 10 positions, places like Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Indonesia languished near the bottom and have been doing so for a while.
The survey noted that COVID-19 will continue to affect city liveability amidst vaccination campaigns that are now underway across the world
Conditions in the poorest cities are likely to deteriorate further, should cities fail to get the vaccines they need to prevent the spread of new COVID-19 variants, according to the report.
"Weak healthcare systems could come under greater strain, as they have in India. A slower inoculation drive would result in a more strict lockdown, thereby affecting the expected recovery in economic growth."
A couple of other aspects such as green spaces and public transport and their popularity or lack of among residents may also vary now as compared to the pre-COVID era.
Residents may prefer more green spaces now and less public transportation.
In 2020, a survey conducted by the World Economic Forum found that 85 million jobs will become redundant within the next five years due to the rapid growth in automation triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic: