Greener Neighbourhoods Show Resilience to the Spread but Not Severity of COVID-19 Infection in South Africa

Bopaki Phogole, Kowiyou Yessoufou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The outbreak of COVID-19 quickly spread around the globe, with staggering infection and mortality rates. Given the reported benefits of greenness to human health, we hypothesized that greener neighbourhoods would suffer less from COVID-19 infection and severity than not. We modelled COVID-19 infection and severity in South Africa by fitting Generalized Linear Mixed Effects models to various socio-demographic and greenness data (EVI, i.e., Enhanced Vegetation Index, and tree and grass covers) collected from January 2020 to June 2022 at local municipalities, Wards, and districts scales. We found that income level showed a significant negative association with COVID-19 prevalence at the Ward level, suggesting that poorer neighbourhoods are more susceptible to COVID-19 infection. We also found that EVI and tree cover consistently showed a significant negative correlation with COVID-19 infection rate, irrespective of the scale of analysis, whereas grass cover showed a similar pattern but only at the Ward scale. Finally, we found that neither EVI, grass cover, nor tree cover showed a significant association with COVID-19 severity. Overall, greener neighbourhoods show greater resilience to the spread of COVID-19, suggesting that exposure to greenness may boost natural killer cells in the human body, thus reinvigorating our defence system against infections. Our results re-enforced the need to establish and preserve greens paces particularly in the developing world, given their ability to buffer the spread of COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14508
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • COVID-19
  • enhanced vegetation index
  • grass
  • spatial scale
  • tree

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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