COVID-19 mobility report

The effect of the COVID-19 measures on mobility in the UK

With the coronavirus challenging societies around the world, the United Kingdom, like many other countries, reacted by imposing limitations on its population's mobility. Between 18 March and 23 March, the government announced several measures including closures of schools and other public places. The Coronavirus Act 2020 went into force on 25 March, giving the UK government the ability to impose restrictions on public gatherings, transport and other parts of public life. What are the effects of these measures?

The chart below is an overview of traffic flows in the UK relative to their January averages. What is measured is the number of daily trips between and within cities compared to the average number of daily trips in January. Select one of the bars to get the geographic breakdown of the mobility reduction for that week in the map below.

The map shows the remaining mobility per region in the selected week relative to January traffic levels. Each colored region on the map represents a corresponding urban area. The lower the percentage value, the greater the reduction in mobility. The colored arcs represent mobility between urban centers. Hover over the colored areas to see details.

The graphic indicates that traffic hovers around the 100% mark until mid-March. The first significant decline in mobility can be observed in the week from March 21 to March 27 during which several restrictions were put in place by the UK government. During this week, inner city traffic saw a reduction to 35% - 55% of January levels. Traffic between cities has also been reduced but saw a wider spread ranging from 35% to 75% of January levels. An interesting observation is that the connection between London and the Liverpool-Manchaster area remained relatively active at 77% of January traffic.

Around the beginning of April, mobility reduced even further with inner city traffic ranging from 20% to 35% of January levels and traffic between cities between 15% and 50%.

What went into this analysis?

For this particular analysis we asked ourselves the following questions: Do we see an overall reduction of mobility in the UK following the implementation of restrictions in response to COVID-19? If yes, how strong was the reduction? How quickly did people comply? Furthermore, we were wondering if we would find regional differences.

The data for this analysis stems from the TomTom Origin/Destination API. This API processes huge amounts of de-identified floating car data to provide estimates of traffic flows between and within geographic regions.

We want to be clear that while these results are interesting to study, we should be careful with their interpretation. If a city shows less of a mobility reduction than another city, this does not mean that there is less compliance with the restrictions. It might just as well mean that this city hosts more essential industry and simply cannot reduce mobility further. To make the most out of this data, it should be correlated and combined with other sources and carefully interpreted.

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