Examining the diffusion of coronavirus disease 2019 cases in a metropolis: a space syntax approach

Yepeng Yao, Wenzhong Shi, Anshu Zhang, Zhewei Liu, Shuli Luo

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The urban built environment (BE) has been globally acknowledged as one of the main factors that affects the spread of infectious disease. However, the effect of the street network on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) incidence has been insufficiently studied. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, which causes COVID-19, is far more transmissible than previous respiratory viruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, which highlights the role of the spatial configuration of street network in COVID-19 spread, as it is where humans have contact with each other, especially in high-density areas. To fill this research gap, this study utilized space syntax theory and investigated the effect of the urban BE on the spatial diffusion of COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong. Method: This study collected a comprehensive dataset including a total of 3815 confirmed cases and corresponding locations from January 18 to October 5, 2020. Based on the space syntax theory, six space syntax measures were selected as quantitative indicators for the urban BE. A linear regression model and Geographically Weighted Regression model were then applied to explore the underlying relationships between COVID-19 cases and the urban BE. In addition, we have further improved the performance of GWR model considering the spatial heterogeneity and scale effects by adopting an adaptive bandwidth. Result: Our results indicated a strong correlation between the geographical distribution of COVID-19 cases and the urban BE. Areas with higher integration (a measure of the cognitive complexity required for a pedestrians to reach a street) and betweenness centrality values (a measure of spatial network accessibility) tend to have more confirmed cases. Further, the Geographically Weighted Regression model with adaptive bandwidth achieved the best performance in predicting the spread of COVID-19 cases. Conclusion: In this study, we revealed a strong positive relationship between the spatial configuration of street network and the spread of COVID-19 cases. The topology, network accessibility, and centrality of an urban area were proven to be effective for use in predicting the spread of COVID-19. The findings of this study also shed light on the underlying mechanism of the spread of COVID-19, which shows significant spatial variation and scale effects. This study contributed to current literature investigating the spread of COVID-19 cases in a local scale from the space syntax perspective, which may be beneficial for epidemic and pandemic prevention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17
JournalInternational Journal of Health Geographics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Built environment
  • COVID-19
  • Geographically weighted regression
  • Space syntax

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • General Business,Management and Accounting
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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