As infections were reported first across the world, the preferred first step to control Covid-19 by most countries was a lockdown. On March 25, India went into what was one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. This first set of curbs remained in place till April 14 and was extended four times till the end of May, each time with gradual relaxations. This was then followed by seven phases of gradual unlocking till December 31.
Google publishes Covid-19 Community Mobility Reports for 131 countries to show how the lockdown affected the movement of people. The report uses “aggregated and anonymised data to chart movement trends over time by geography” across a range of places such as grocery stores, parks, workplaces and places of transit and compares it to a “baseline” activity established as per pre-lockdown. A look at what it showed for India.
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Movement at offices and workplaces dropped to its lowest in the recorded time frame touching -72% on March 25 — the day the nationwide lockdown kicked off. It averaged in the late -60s till the end of the second phase of the lockdown, from when it started showing a gradual recovery. By the last week of December a large number of offices had shifted to a work-from-home model, which meant that activity at workplaces remained around 15% below the baseline.
There was a 30% increase from baseline in mobility around residential areas on the first day of the nationwide lockdown. This remained more or less the same through the next five weeks. Through May, however, movement around residential areas started dropping every week, finally settling at around 10% above pre-lockdown levels by the end of the year.
GROCERY AND PHARMACY
This is the field that has reported the biggest resumption of activity among all sectors mapped. From a 77% drop in movement at retail and recreational locations on March 25, it dropped further to 80% through April and most of May. From October onwards, activities have overtaken what was reported in pre-pandemic levels – a factor that offers some cheer for the economic recovery of the country.
When the lockdown was announced, movement at transit hubs such as trains and metro stations dropped 73% from the baseline – one of the biggest drops recorded. Since then, it reported a gradual recovery, but by the last week of the year it still to remains around 8% below the baseline.
RETAIL AND RECREATION
Movement at retail and recreational locations dropped 78% on March 25, the first day of the lockdown. This remained low the next few weeks, dropping as low as -87% on April 18. Through May, however, activity started recovering slightly by the end of the fourth lockdown. But even by the end of December, activity at retail and recreation centres remains around 30% below pre-pandemic levels.
This is another one of the activity centres in the Google report that has shown relatively little recovery. On May 25, data shows that 54% fewer people were logged in and around parks across the country. This went on to drop to as much as -68% by the end of March. And though it since recovered, movement at parks remained 15% below the baseline by the end of December.