“The Dense Population Pushers have always been willing to put their personal gain ahead of the physical and mental health and well-being of communities, but never as shamelessly, outrageously and nakedly as now.

Mike Day from the planning firm Roberts Day has denied that the density of New York and cities in northern Italy was a cause of the spread of coronavirus. The Managing Director of EG Urban Planning Shane Geha says he is worried that “people would start to fear living in medium to high-density neighbourhoods”, and claimed that Australia’s low density “was a problem”. RMIT Professor Giles-Cortis claimed that it was “completely not true” that a “dense city means we’re going to have more disease”.

Trying to claim that “Dense is Safe” is like trying to claim that black is white. George Orwell, that master of exposing propaganda, would have loved this.

The litany of epidemiological evidence about the impact of density on the spread of pandemics is legion –

  • Professor Alon Tal, Israel: Overcrowding and population density are factors in a pandemic’s reach, as important to its impact as its pathology. An increasingly crowded world is witnessing outbreaks of zoonotic viruses with growing frequency. Over the past 50 years the rate of infectious disease epidemics has quadrupled. (The Times of Israel, 25 March 2020).
  • Gary Wockner: The basic epidemiological fact – that human density increases disease transmission - is not new and has been known for hundreds of years. Quotes the Mayor of Denver saying “We’re the densest area in the state, and right now we have the highest number of positive cases in the State”. (“To Avoid the Next Coronavirus, Don’t be Dense, Denver Westword, 29 March 2020).
  • Dr Steven Goodman, Stanford University epidemiologist: “Density is really an enemy in a situation like this… With large population centres, where people are interacting with more people all the time, that’s where it’s going to spread the fastest”. (“Density is New York City’s Big ‘Enemy’ in the Coronavirus Fight, The New York Times 23 March 2020).
  • Stefan Novakovic: “The larger the population, the higher the concentration of COVID-19. In Canada, the highest volume of cases are clustered in Montreal and Toronto. In Spain, Madrid. In a pandemic, the connectivity and human proximity of densely populated cities poses alarming risks. (“Will COVID-19 Spell the End of Urban Density? 29 March 2020).
  • Dr Peter Daszak, disease ecologist : “There’s a strong correlation between the risk of pandemic and human population density. We’ve done the math and we’ve proved it”. (Scientific American, 2013).
  • Professor Ambt Anoruo, Professor of Agriculture/Environmental Sciences: “when the population was about 4 billion in 1975, nobody outside China could have heard about coronavirus because natural social distancing could have stopped the disease. Even if the virus escaped China, it could have run into natural distancing due to human population density per unit of land”.(“How does population size affect a pandemic and social distancing?”, 2020).

The claim that “Dense is Safe” is not merely bizarre, it is dangerous. For years the Dense Population Pushers have been promoting Manhattan as a model for cities around the world. But now in New York people are dying from coronavirus at the rate of one every three minutes. Their packed subway doors, their crowded apartment lift buttons, are merchants of death. Yet we have propagandists from the property industry with the temerity, the nerve, the cheek, to double down on density. What they should be doing is apologising for leading us down the dangerous dead-end of density.”