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Haryana

Post-lockdown, more visits to supermarkets, less to offices

July 14, 2020 06:32 AM

COURTESY HT JULY 14

Post-lockdown, more visits to supermarkets, less to offices

Between April 26 and July 7, for example, visits to supermarkets and pharmacies (within Haryana) recorded a 45% increase, as per Google’s Community Mobility Reports. YOGENDRA KUMAR/HT FILE
Prayag Arora-Desai

prayag.desai@htlive.com

Gurugram : Mobility data published by Google shows a gradual increase in public movement following easing of lockdown restrictions in Haryana starting in May .

In Haryana, a majority of this increase was from people making more trips to the supermarkets and pharmacies, followed by recreational locations (including restaurants, cafés, and shopping centres) and transport hubs, data obtained from Google shows.

Between April 26 and July 7, for example, visits to supermarkets and pharmacies (within Haryana) recorded a 45% increase, as per Google’s Community Mobility Reports. Trips to recreational locations rose 38 percent during the same period, while travel to transport hubs (such as bus stations) increased by 23 percent.

Launched in April to depict changing mobility trends in a post-Covid world, Google reports calculate the increase (or decrease) in public mobility by comparing recent trends with those observed between January 3 and February 6 (which has been taken as the baseline period). The data only captures smartphone users who have allowed Google to track their location history.

The latest mobility report, based on data up to July 7, shows that workplaces in Haryana have remained largely closed, with only a seven percent increase in trips to offices (since April 26). Visits to parks during this period were up by 16 percent, while visits to residential areas have reduced by 10 percent.

However, visits to residential locations are still 12 percent higher than the median value (recorded during January 3 and February 6) indicating that at least a portion of the population is continuing to stay indoors. The same applies to Google’s other location categories as well -- while there has been an increase in public movement to recreational spaces in Haryana, for example, the average number of trips to restaurants, cafes and similar locations continues to be 48 percent less than in a pre-Covid world.

Compared to pre-Covid data, visits to workspaces remain 35 percent lower, while visits to parks and public spaces remains 75 percent less than in January and February. Visits to key locations for public transport are still 43 percent less than they were before the outbreak.

However, visits to supermarkets and pharmacies are just one percent lower than their median value, indicating that these activities have remained the same.

Nationwide, Google’s data shows an 30 percent increase in trips to recreational destinations, 49 percent increase in trips to grocery stores and pharmacies, 20 percent to parks, 27 percent to transit stations and 6 percent to workplaces, along with a 7 percent increase in trips to residential areas (between April 26 and July 7).

“We have heard from public health officials that this same type of aggregated, anonymised data could be helpful as they make critical decisions to combat Covid-19,” Google had said in a statement at the time of launching it’s mobility data in early April.

“This dataset is intended to help remediate the impact of Covid-19. It shouldn’t be used for medical diagnostic, prognostic, or treatment purposes. It also isn’t intended to be used for guidance on personal travel plans,” the report for India states.

Experts said that while the data can be valuable for policy makers, it must also be viewed with certain caveats. Divij Joshi, lawyer and policy expert at an international not-for-profit technology company, said, “Such kind of data could be used by authorities to see how and where people are moving. This could help them understand where social distancing measures need to be enforced more strictly. But the actual utility of the data is still to be seen. Also, Google has captured only those individuals who own smartphones and have allowed Google to track their location history.”

Citizens using feature phones without internet connectivity have been left out of the purview of the data.

“There is a large section of the population whose mobility patterns, if changing, has not been recorded. Smartphone penetration in India is only between 30 to 40 percent, so Google’s data set covers only a certain section of the population, with most smartphone users living in urban areas,” Joshi added.

Google’s latest report (up to July 7), also clarifies this, stating, “The data represents a sample of our users. As with all samples, this may or may not represent the exact behaviour of a wider population

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