Visits to Swiss restaurants, shopping centres or museums plummeted by 81% in March, according to location data from users’ phones collected by Google.
Google’s analysis of billions of phones in 131 countries is the largest public dataset available to help health authorities assess whether people are obeying shelter-in-place and similar orders issued across the world to rein in the spread of Covid-19.
Its reports show charts that compare traffic from February 16 to March 29. These are broken down into segments such as restaurants, shopping centres and museums, retailers and chemists, parks, train stations, and workplaces and residential areas.
In Switzerland, in addition to visits in the restaurant, retail and leisure sectors, activity declined in all areas except residential areas. The food stores and chemists that were still open were 51% less frequented.
There were 41% fewer people strolling along rivers and in parks, 68% fewer on public transport and 46% fewer at work. On the other hand, 15% more people stayed at home. After March 16, when the government announced its emergency measures, the numbers in restaurants sank abruptly.
At the same time, the frequency of visits to food stores and chemists increased as people started stocking up. This curve later flattened out. In parks and public spaces, the number of visitors initially increased right after March 16.
Around the world
Elsewhere, in Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the virus, visits to retail and recreation locations, including restaurants and cinemas, plunged by 94% while visits to workplaces slid 63%. Reflecting the severity of the crisis there, grocery and pharmacy visits in Italy dropped 85% and park visits were down by 90%.
The data also underscore some challenges authorities have faced in keeping people apart. Food store visits surged in Singapore, Britain and elsewhere as travel restrictions were set to go into place. Visits to parks spiked in March in some San Francisco Bay Area counties, forcing them to later put the sites off limits.
By contrast in Japan, where authorities have been relatively relaxed in urging social distancing measures but where calls have been growing daily for a state of emergency, visits to retail and recreational places fell 26%. Visits to people’s workplaces dropped a mere 9%.
Data in Google’s reports came from users who enabled Google’s “Location History” feature on their devices. The company said it adopted technical measures to ensure that no individual could be identified through the new reports.
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