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January lockdown had 1/3 less national impact on movement than the March shutdown

UK population movement falls 59%, compared to -89% in March, shows Oxford COVID-19 Monitor

Crowd of people wearing face masks

The latest data from Oxford’s COVID-19 Impact Monitor shows the January lockdown has, so far, had one third less national impact on movement than the March shutdown. The figures demonstrate that some regions are still moving at more than 50% of pre-pandemic levels, despite the tough restrictions and calls for people to remain at home.

Dr Adam Saunders (Department of Education) says, "As widely reported in the media, there have been growing concerns over adherence to this third lockdown, with pockets of evidence suggesting that some members of the British public have been moving more despite public health warnings highlighting the increased transmissibility of the virus".

"This latest data shows what we believe to be the first national picture of the third lockdown’s effectiveness along with better insight into why the spread of the virus has proved so difficult to contain this time around."

According to up-to-date figures from the Monitor, on Friday 8 January:

  • Movement in the North East was at more than half pre-COVID levels and in the North West, just under 50%;
  • The South East was the most lockdown-abiding region, but still one third of pre-COVID movement was recorded;
  • London, the most virus-affected region, recorded movement at more than 33% of ‘normal’ levels;
  • Scotland and Wales, which each have tough independent anti-COVID measures, recorded movement of 43% and 41% of pandemic rates.

Back in March, meanwhile, 45% of the population was staying at home, while the Monitor shows that there are now only 28% of ‘home stayers’. The flow of people outside their region was down 65% in March, but according to the latest data, this was down by just 22%.

Meanwhile, the number of hospital visits in March were down 63%, whilst the same data for last Friday showed a 21% fall. Supermarket visits have been relatively unaffected according to the Monitor which recorded national visits to large food shops of 4% more than pre-pandemic levels with London being just below ‘normal’ levels and Wales recording 21% more supermarket visits than before the pandemic.

Dr Matthias Qian (Faculty of Law) comments, "Our mobility measures show signs of lockdown fatigue among Britons. Despite the overflow of hospitals with COVID-19 patients, the behavioural change and mobility patterns responded less than during the March lockdown."

Oxford’s online tool uses mobile phone data to track movement and help tackle the pandemic.

The Oxford COVID-19 Impact Monitor only uses anonymised and aggregated mobile phone location data. This GDPR-compliant data is then used to power interactive digital dashboards that can help policymakers, clinicians and the general public to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on the NHS and the wider community. The online dashboards are free and publicly available, together with key insights from the data. Analyses can be carried out at different degrees of geographic detail, including at the local and regional levels, and also for specific NHS hospital catchment areas.

The tool was developed by a team from across the University of Oxford led by Dr Adam Saunders (SKOPE, Department of Education) and Dr Matthias Qian (Saïd Business School). Team members include Bill Wildi (Department of Engineering Science), Daniel Pesch (Saïd Business School), Dr Steven Reece (Department of Engineering Science), Dr Xiaowen Dong (Department of Engineering Science), Dr Won Do Lee (Transport Studies Unit, School of Geography and the Environment) and Professor Renaud Lambiotte (Mathematical Institute).

Project partners include:

Oracle - supporting the online tool with cloud-based high performance computing

Cuebiq’s Data for Good programme - providing anonymised and aggregated data from opted-in users

CKDelta - providing a wide array of anonymised and aggregated data

Facebook’s Data for Good programme – providing the UK population density map base layer, built with satellite imagery and census data, for validation purposes


Reproduced from the University of Oxford website by kind permission.