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Movement Analysis Based on Community Mobility Reports

by Najlaa Ramli for Young Digital Leaders

Regulation of Movement

We are all now familiar with the concept of movement restrictions and social distancing. The concepts were foreign to most of us just a few months earlier. COVID-19 outbreak has triggered various disease containment measures, including the abovementioned efforts.

Malaysia panned out Movement Control Order (MCO), effective on May 18, 2020. MCO primarily prohibits mass movements and gatherings across the country. MCO also inflicts the closure of all educational institutions, government, and private premises except those involved in essential services. Movements are limited for access to daily essentials. Numerous roadblock operations by PDRM also curbed the movements of the general public as a reminder for the public to stay at home and abide by the order.

Conditional MCO, or CMCO, was enforced beginning on May 4, 2020. Restrictions are eased out to allow certain business activities to resume operations. Movement restrictions are also lifted, except for interstate travels. At the time of writing this article, CMCO would remain in force until June 9, 2020.

Community Mobility Reports from Google and Apple

We seek to study the actual change of behavior of the general public in response to these policies. MCO compliance reports from relevant authorities are available. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to explore alternative tools and available data that may help us to execute important decisions.

Leveraging on sets of data on users’ Location History, Google issues the COVID-19 Community Mobility Report that provides insights on how busy certain types of places are. The report demonstrates how the visits and length of stay at different places are changing compared to a baseline. The report includes relevant categories of places such as Grocery & Pharmacy, Retail & Recreation, Workplaces, Transit Stations, Parks, and Residential areas. 

Source: Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Report

Apple also shares its aggregated data on the volume of direction requests on Apple Maps. This data is used as a proxy to gauge the number of users who would be traveling from one point to another destination, thus signaling the potential volume of movements. They compare daily changes of the volume to a baseline volume in January 2020.

Source: Apple Mobility Trends Reports

Behavior during pre-MCO

The general public anticipated an official announcement for a lockdown measure on the night of March 16, 2020. This outlook prompted a large number of people to head over to grocery stores and stock up on the daily essentials. Needless to say, visits to places under Grocery & Pharmacy category recorded a surge. The highest number of users was recorded on March 17, a day before the MCO took effect.  

Source: Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Report

Behavior during MCO

As expected, visitation to public places saw a plunge on the first day of MCO implementation. Mobility trends for places under the Retail & Recreation category, which includes visits to the restaurants, shopping centers, and movie theaters, saw significant reduction. Mobility trends for Workplaces also dropped about 50% compared to the baseline. Alternately, data subjects are observed to occupy Residential areas as they adhered to the MCO’s guidelines.

Nevertheless, outcomes on the first day were not the most optimal and desirable. Confusion and misunderstandings amongst the public on the sudden MCO implementation were expected. The following few days saw more stringent monitoring, including implementation of penalties, to reduce MCO violations. The mobility trends at public places were further suppressed to about 60-80% below the baseline rate by the end of the first week of MCO.

As the ambiguity of the MCO measures cleared, the general public started to adapt their daily activities and movements according to the imposed restrictions. Data has backed this new adaptation, and we can observe stable mobility trends from week 2 of MCO onwards.

Source: Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Report

Behavior during CMCO

CMCO aims to reactivate the suppressed economy and social activities during the MCO. The public is now allowed to move freely, although certain rules and standard operating procedures (SOPs) are still applied. Mobility in all categories, except in Residentials, is depicting an upward trend. Visitation to public places has increased by about 2-9%, in comparison to the scenes during the MCO. This analysis is not taking into account visitation to Grocery & Pharmacy, which is considered as access to essentials.

Source: Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Report

Mobility Changes during CMCO vs. MCO

Day TypeGrocery & PharmacyRetail & RecreationWorkplacesTransit StationsParks
Weekday+15.9%+3.3%+6.3%+2.6%+1.8%
Weekend+21.1%+2.5%+8.7%+7.3%+2.2%

Source: YDL’s analysis of Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Report, comparing the median value of mobility changes during CMCO and MCO

Conclusion

Before the COVID-19 crisis, the analysis of users’ Location History data was primarily to identify when a local business tends to be the most crowded. Meanwhile, data on direction requests is a mere data product for transactions in Apple Maps. However, these types of data provide useful observation on the responses to public policies. Public adherence to policies that aim to slow down the rate of transmission is observable during this period of the pandemic. Also, these data provide insights on how the general public restarting their business-as-usuals, given that various alternatives to achieve productivity have emerged during MCO. Ultimately, these types of data enrich our understanding of the changes in behavior as we are adapting to the new circumstance.

Source: 

  1. Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Report (https://www.google.com/covid19/mobility/)
  2. Apple Mobility Trends Reports (https://www.apple.com/covid19/mobility)