Google data suggests recreation activity is down by 83pc in Ireland

3 Apr 2020

Image: ©

Google has released location data to offer insights into changes in people’s movement since Covid-19 restrictions were introduced.

Today (3 April), Google shared a blogpost outlining how its smartphone location data could help public health officials to understand people’s movements in recent weeks.

The Google Covid-19 Community Mobility Reports offer insights into what has changed in response to physical distancing policies aimed at combatting the coronavirus. The company said that these reports will be available for a limited time, “so long as public health officials find them useful in their work to stop the spread of Covid-19”.

The company has used the same type of aggregated, anonymised insights that are used in products such as Google Maps. The data is from users who have opted into storing their location history with Google.

Recreation activity down in Ireland

Google’s Mobility Report for Ireland suggests that there has been an 83pc reduction in retail and recreation activity. The figure is based on location data from the period Sunday 16 February to Sunday 29 March.

Google said this represents mobility trends for places like restaurants, cafés, shopping centres, theme parks, museums, libraries and cinemas. Many of these places were the first businesses to close when the Government first introduced nationwide measures to combat the spread of Covid-19.

Graph from Google showing that retail and recreation activity is down by 83pc.

Image: Google

The insights also looked at grocery and pharmacy shopping, suggesting that activity has decreased by 37pc compared to Google’s baseline figures for these areas. This includes grocery markets, food warehouses, farmers markets, specialty food shops and pharmacies.

There is a spike around Thursday 12 March, when the Government first introduced significant social distancing measures and many shoppers observed panic buying taking place.

Google graph showing that grocery and pharmacy activity is down by 37pc.

Image: Google

Although many people have been getting out for fresh air and exercise, the data suggests that overall there has been a 59pc decrease in visits to national parks, public beaches, seafronts, dog parks and public gardens between Sunday 16 February and Sunday 29 March. Activity in these areas spiked in mid-March, but declined sharply last week.

Meanwhile, activity at public transport hubs such as bus stops and train stations has declined by 78pc. Mobility trends for places of work show a drop of 52pc, while there is a 19pc increase in mobility trends for places of residence.

In all of Google’s mobility reports, the company emphasises that the data should not be used for medical diagnostic, prognostic or treatment purposes, and that it isn’t intended to be used for guidance on personal travel plans.

It has released data for 131 countries, but said that it would leave certain regions out of the report if it cannot gather statistically significant levels of data.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic