Geography of COVID-19 outbreak and first policy answers in European regions and cities


The sudden appearance and exponential development of severe forms of COVID-19 and the pressure induced on health care systems, have led almost all European governments to put in place – more or less strictly – measures to limit economic and social activities. For the first time in recent history, voluntary measures have generated an economic and social crisis on an unprecedented scale. While most of the consequences of this crisis are still ahead of us, the first real effects are already being felt after the lock-down of entire sectors of the economy such as rising unemployment, social issues and explosion in public spending.

As a matter of emergency, all Member and Partner States have taken measures to mitigate the immediately identified consequences. These have been accompanied at European level by the European Commission and implemented in particular with the support of the European Investment Bank. At regional and local levels, public authorities have been called upon to provide emergency services to the population and mitigate as far as possible the impact on economies and societies.

The objective of this ESPON activity is to produce pan-European territorial evidence to contribute to the efforts undertaken at EU, national and regional levels: to help understand better the territorial patterns of the epidemic and to support the definition of renewed place-based policies to tackle the upcoming socio-economic crisis.

Policy questions

  • How did the circulation of the virus affect health care systems during the first months of the outbreak? What has been the kinetics of the epidemic across European regions?
  • What can be said about the geography of the outbreak? About the persistency in the spatial concentration of severe cases? About the spatial spread of the epidemics after the appearance of the first uncontrolled clusters (severe cases and deaths)? How can the modes of diffusion be described (between the topological logic and the network logic)?
  • How can regional variations be explained? Is it possible to identify links between the spread of the disease and variables likely to influence it such as density, types of territories, the structure of the population, socio-economical characteristics? Can differentiated approaches to lockdowns explain some of these variations?
  • What were the main tendencies among emergency policy-measures taken at regional and local levels (cities, metropolitan areas…)? How can they be categorized by domain, territorial levels, time perspective (short-, mid- or long term)?
  • What were the most significant initiatives in terms of cross-border cooperation?
  • Which priorities for further research on territorial resilience and recovery can be identified in relation to the geography of the outbreak and the typologies of first policy answers?


  • EM Normandy Business School, FR (lead contractor)
  • University of Calabria, IT
  • Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi, RO
  • Paris University, CNRS EconomiX, FR


27.500 €


August 2020 – November 2020


  • Delivery 1, 9 October 2020
  • Delivery 2, 30 October 2020
  • Final delivery, 13 November 2020


GEOCOV final report.pdf

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GEOCOV annex data collection.pdf

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01. Predominantly urban regions - Braila (RO).pdf

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02. Predominantly urban regions - Rhône (FR).pdf

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03. Predominantly urban regions - Valencia (ES).pdf

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04. Predominantly urban regions - Lodzki (PL).pdf

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05. Predominantly urban regions - Taranto (IT).pdf

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06. Predominantly urbanl region - Uppsala (SE).pdf

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07. Predominantly urban regions - Hannover (DE).pdf

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08. Intermediate regions - Cluj (RO).pdf

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09. Intermediate regions - Calvados (FR).pdf

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10. Intermediate regions - Guadalajara (SP).pdf

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11. Intermediate regions - Poznanski (PL).pdf

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12. Intermediate regions - Reggio Calabria (IT).pdf

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13. Intermediate regions - Skane (SE).pdf

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14. Intermediate regions - Havelland (DE).pdf

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15. Predominantly rural region - Gorj (RO).pdf

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16. Predominantly rural region - Nièvre (FR).pdf

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17. Predominantly rural region - Cuenca (ES).pdf

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18. Predominantly rural region - Kaliski (PL).pdf

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19. Predominantly rural region - Mantua (IT).pdf

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20. Predominantly rural regions - Dalarnas lan (SE).pdf

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21. Predominantly rural region - Emsland (DE).pdf

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22. Metropolis - Iasi (RO).pdf

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23. Metropolis - Bordeaux (FR).pdf

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24. Metropolis - Zaragoza (SP).pdf

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25. Metropolis - Katowice (PL).pdf

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26. Metropolis - Bologna (IT).pdf

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27. Metropolis - Goteborg (SE).pdf

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28. Metropolis - Leipzig (DE).pdf

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29. Metropolis - Lisboa (PT).pdf

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30. Metropolis - Porto (PT).pdf

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31. Metropolis - Warsaw (PL).pdf

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32. Metropolis - Oslo (NO).pdf

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33. Metropolis - Amsterdam (NL).pdf

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34. Metropolis - Riga (LV).pdf

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35. Metropolis - Gent (BE).pdf

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