The question “Are we there yet?” has suddenly taken on another meaning as governments, scientists, businesses and citizens across the world are all looking for what the right answer might be.
When can we reopen society?
The restriction of movement strains countries across the globe, with significant economic impact and restrictions of fundamental civil liberties. How can governments restart economic and cultural life without risking the collapse of the healthcare system that we have largely managed to avoid so far? How will we know how much reopening of society is too much?
With so many variables to consider, I wanted to explore if traffic data can be a piece in the deconfinement puzzle.
The deconfinement challenge
In a press conference on April 15, German chancellor Angela Merkel explained the challenge of reopening society
: a small change in the reproduction rate of the virus can have a significant impact on the ability of a society’s healthcare system to affront the situation.
On the other hand, the desire for a gradual revival of economic life has intensified around the globe. The lingering fear is that the negative consequences of an extended pause in economic activity can aggravate an already difficult situation.
While some are still in their infancy, solutions already exist that support deconfinement strategies. If developed to respect the privacy of their users
, tracking apps could be an effective way to help break the infection chain.
Regardless of the solution of choice, with infection rate being an extremely lagging indicator, governments still need a reliable way to estimate the effects of their policy making. When border closures are lifted, will people react in a way that puts public health at risk? When shops reopen, will there be an insurgence of people in shopping areas? If governments only use infection numbers as the basis for revising and adapting their deconfinement policies, they will likely be too slow to react.
Using traffic data to inform and adapt deconfinement measures
At TomTom, we’re no epidemiologists. We leave it to the experts to determine the best way forward. We are, however, location technology experts and a market leader in traffic information. Data from 600 million connected devices around the world allows us to see traffic patterns which, if used by policy makers, can be a powerful source of information for the reopening of society.
TomTom’s traffic data can show the effects that lockdown measures have had across the world. This series of interactive reports lets you explore how COVID-19 measures have impacted mobility in countries such as Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK and states such as California.