Half-way back to ‘Normal’

It certainly feels to me like things are pretty much back to normal following the lockdown – but is that the reality?

The truth is we’re only about halfway.

With many businesses still closed, people working from home, and schools being closed things still have a long way to go.

Google have shared mobility data that allows us to paint a picture of the patterns in Ireland – let’s look at workplaces first.

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At the peak of lockdown the time spent at workplaces had reduced by 74% in NI and 84% in ROI – now both NI & ROI are around the 40% mark.

So, does that mean that the people who haven’t yet returned to work are spending more time at home?

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Yes, unsurprisingly the data backs this up. At the peak people were spending 28% more time at home in ROI, 20% in NI – but this is now roughly 15% both North & South.

When it comes to public transport this had fallen by 70% below normal levels at the peak – now around 35% below.

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Time spent at retail outlets sees a very similar trend again – at the peak this was 85% below normal in ROI, 74% in NI, now both are around 40%.

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Of course with many retail outlets not yet open this makes sense, but what about grocery shopping (that’s been open throughout the lockdown)?

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Actually Grocery shopping is already back to pre-lockdown levels. This had dipped by around 30%, but in ROI this is back up to just above the January levels. (NI is still around 5% below).

Finally, one area that doesn’t follow the same sort of pattern is parks, beaches etc. This jumps up and down and will of course be very much weather dependant.

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Just worth referencing some analysis I looked at a couple of weeks ago – this used similar data produced by Apple to monitor driving activity. It’s telling a similar story – a bit less than half-way back to where we were (2 weeks ago).

In ROI, driving had fallen by 78%, but was back up to 47% below the baseline.

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A bigger change in NI, where driving had fallen by 65% at the lowest point, but was back up to just 21% below the baseline.

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So, we’re still seeing the effects of lockdown. We’re still at home more and going to our work places less, but time spent grocery shopping is already back to normal.

Throughout the next few weeks things will be changing quickly – I would expect that we’ll almost be back to pre-lockdown levels pretty soon, and the main differences will be related to seasonality rather than lockdown – although continued home-working may be an exception here.