Call it quarantine fatigue or just sheer necessity but many more people across the country are stepping out of their homes than they did in the previous month. Visits to grocery and medical shops, which were down by 64% on an average during March, were down only by 47% during April indicating that consumers were making regular visits to stock up.
Similarly, March had a 65% drop in office-goers but in April this became 58%. Total visits to parks, which on average were down 53% in March, went down further to 64% during April but that’s probably because parks shut rather than people staying away. Retail and recreation spots such as malls and restaurants witnessed a sharp drop in movement for the same reason. In Kerala, where the Covid case load is lower, many more went for a walk in the park as well as making trips to grocers and chemists.
The findings are based on national movement data provided in Google’s Mobility Report for the same set of days (Wednesday through Sunday; March 25-29 and April 22-26, 2020). The data, which is from users who have opted in for location history, compares daily movement as compared to a base of movement for the five-week period between January 3 and February 6.
As lockdowns drag on, even Americans are feeling restless. Researchers at the Maryland Transportation Institute (MTI) tracked cellphone data and found that on an average, Americans took more non-work trips, more out-of-state and out-of-county trips, and travelled longer distances.
Indians kicked off the lockdown by following stay-at-home orders. Another study by researchers at the Centre for Policy Research based on anonymised data of 28 million users with Facebook apps shows that movement across India dropped by 80% in March. The decline in a city like Mumbai was 80%, the same as the national average while Delhi saw a sharper drop of 90%. On March 19, the number of people recorded as moving about was 3.03 million while on March 30, the number had come down to 668,719.
The researchers also found that the population in cities had reduced by about 11% while population in rural areas had increased by 7%. “Because of the lockdown, millions of individuals no longer commute to cities. In that context, the population increase in the rural areas surrounding cities is the result of the abrupt stop of daily movements toward city centres,” said Partha Mukhopadhyay, CPR senior fellow and co-author.
However, some areas saw unusual increase in movements towards them including West Rajasthan, the mountains located in the North of Delhi and Odisha, (around Bengaluru, Chennai and Madurai), possibly due to migrants returning home.
In South India (around Bengaluru, Chennai and Madurai), there was movement to the city as well as an exodus.
The analysis also found that up to the end of March, there was no significant increase of population in the poorest states, such as Bihar, Jharkhand or Uttar Pradesh, that are a huge source of migrant workers. Their mobility has been severely constrained and delayed by the lockdown: railways and buses stopped, and interstate police roadblocks were in place. This is likely to change in the coming days.