Anonymised and aggregated crowd level mobility data from mobile phones suggests that initial compliance with covid-19 social distancing interventions was high and geographically consistent across the UK

Benjamin Jeffrey*, Caroline E. Walters, Kylie E.C. Ainslie, Oliver Eales, Constanze Ciavarella, Sangeeta Bhatia, Sarah Hayes, Marc Baguelin, Adhiratha Boonyasiri, Nicholas F. Brazeau, Gina Cuomo-Dannenburg, Richard G. FitzJohn, Katy Gaythorpe, William Green, Natsuko Imai, Thomas A. Mellan, Swapnil Mishra, Pierre Nouvellet, H. Juliette T. Unwin, Robert VerityMichaela Vollmer, Charles Whittaker, Neil M. Ferguson, Christl A. Donnelly, Steven Riley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Since early March 2020, the COVID-19 epidemic across the United Kingdom has led to a range of social distancing policies, which have resulted in reduced mobility across different regions. Crowd level data on mobile phone usage can be used as a proxy for actual population mobility patterns and provide a way of quantifying the impact of social distancing measures on changes in mobility. Methods: Here, we use two mobile phone-based datasets (anonymised and aggregated crowd level data from O2 and from the Facebook app on mobile phones) to assess changes in average mobility, both overall and broken down into high and low population density areas, and changes in the distribution of journey lengths. Results: We show that there was a substantial overall reduction in mobility, with the most rapid decline on the 24th March 2020, the day after the Prime Minister's announcement of an enforced lockdown. The reduction in mobility was highly synchronized across the UK. Although mobility has remained low since 26th March 2020, we detect a gradual increase since that time. We also show that the two different datasets produce similar trends, albeit with some location-specific differences. We see slightly larger reductions in average mobility in high-density areas than in low-density areas, with greater variation in mobility in the high-density areas: some high-density areas eliminated almost all mobility. Conclusions: These analyses form a baseline from which to observe changes in behaviour in the UK as social distancing is eased and inform policy towards the future control of SARS-CoV-2 in the UK. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalWellcome Open Research
Volume5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Grant information: This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust through a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award [200861; KA, CW, SR] and a Wellcome Trust Collaborator Award [200187; SR]. This work was also supported by the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) under the MRC/DFID Concordat agreement, also part of the EDCTP2 programme supported by the European Union [UK, Centre MR/R015600/1]; and the National Institute for Health Research (UK, for Health Protection Research Unit funding) (SR).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Jeffrey B et al.

Keywords

  • Covid-19
  • Mobile phone
  • Mobility
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • United Kingdom

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