People’s movement decreased by 70 percent during Sydney’s lengthy lockdown, new study shows

Mobility in Sydney during lockdown has been 50% lower during weekdays and down 70% at weekends, data from an Australian company studying people’s movements has revealed. In Melbourne, mobility has also dropped, down 40%.

The people of Australia’s most populous city, Sydney in New South Wales (NSW), have shown a significant adherence to stay-at-home orders, according to mobility numbers released by Australian analytics firm DSpark. Around the middle of the local lockdown, weekday movement in the area was down by 51%, and on weekends travel beyond 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) sank by 72%, reaching its lowest point, Australian news website News.com.au reported on Friday, citing DSpark.

That’s despite Sydney’s lockdown often being branded a ‘mockdown’. Pictures of its world-famous Bondi beach in a wealthy suburban neighborhood packed with sun revelers have drawn harsh criticism online.

In Melbourne, Victoria, Australia’s second-most-populous city, which recently broke the world record as the city with the longest cumulative Covid-19 lockdown, mobility dropped by just 27% on weekdays – and never went any lower, with the lowest decrease of 43.5% registered on weekends despite the strict regulations. How this compares to Sydney residents’ behavior can be seen in the below graphic, in the stark contrast between green and purple shades, with the latter indicating lesser movement.

The study analyzed trips over a range of 10 kilometers, the original travel distance limit for NSW. It used a number of means to measure movement, including data from public transport networks, transport planning apps, and also anonymized mobile phone movement data.

A significant number of people in Sydney also apparently opted for a so-called ‘shadow lockdown’, the study suggested, saying residents stayed at home even before official restrictions were announced. Mobility in Sydney dropped by almost 10 percent during the weekend prior to the latest lockdown, imposed in late June.

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On Friday, Victoria reported 1,838 Covid cases, which is a single day record for Australia. Melbourne, which has seen some violent anti-lockdown protests recently, has had six lockdowns since the start of the pandemic, with the current restrictions set to expire on October 26. By then, locals will have spent a total of nearly 270 days under lockdowns.

Sydney is expected to lift its stay-at-home orders for fully vaccinated residents on Monday. If extended, it might become the longest continuous lockdown in the country, with movement restricted for more than a hundred days in a row.

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FILE PHOTO. Kingsford Smith airport in Sydney, Australia. © Getty Images / James D. Morgan
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