What mobile phones reveal about lockdown movements in Lancashire

Lancashire's residents were heading to parks more before the Government considered easing its lockdown, figures from Google suggest.

Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 6:09 pm
Avenham Park, Preston, pictured after the lockdown was eased

The tech giant's latest weekly report shows people across the UK were venturing out to parks, beaches and other public areas much more – with footfall around a quarter higher than normal levels.

Google uses location data from phones and other personal devices to track trends in people's movement in the home, retail and recreation establishments, grocery stores and pharmacies, public transport hubs, workplaces, and parks and green spaces.

The weekly report shows an increase in activity within Lancashire's parks during the week to May 9, compared to the week before – suggesting people are hanging out in public green spaces more regularly, or for longer periods of time.

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Over the seven days, time spent in parks was 35 per cent higher than during a five-week baseline period at the start of the year.

The week before, it had been three per cent lower than usual levels.

In the first report, which covered the week to March 29 when the lockdown came into effect, park activity was down three per cent.

The data suggests that the population in Lancashire are staying away from green spaces less successfully than in other locations across the UK. Nationally, people were spending four per cent more time than usual in parks last week.

Last week, the Government relaxed its lockdown advice in England, changing its messaging to "stay alert, control the virus, save lives" – though Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland kept the original "stay at home" messaging.

Health experts expressed concern that the new slogan lacked clarity and may lead to an increase in "risky behaviour" from the public.

Meanwhile, authorites encouraged people to stay away from beaches and beauty spots.

People unable to work from home – such as those in construction and manufacturing – were "actively encouraged to go to work", though use of public transport should still be limited.

People were also allowed to spend more time outdoors for leisure purposes, as long as they were socially distanced from others.

It came more than seven weeks after the Prime Minister imposed the lockdown on March 23, telling people to stay home and only leave for “very limited” and essential purposes.

These included shopping for basic necessities, once-a-day exercise, medical needs and travelling to work, but only when it could not be done from home.

In other locations in Lancashire:

Visits to public transport hubs were 54 per cent down on usual levels

Shopping centres and food outlets saw 68 per cent less traffic than normal

Workplaces were 55 per cent quieter than usual

Food shops and pharmacies saw 23 per cent less traffic

People spent 21 per cent more time at home than usual