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Welsh firebreak “had intended effect” on mobility, new analysis shows

24 November 2020

The firebreak lockdown in Wales led to a steep drop in mobility across the country, according to an analysis of Google Mobility data by Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre.

A new interactive tool released today by the Centre’s Wales Fiscal Analysis programme allows data from Welsh local authorities to be easily compared with each other and with the UK as a whole. The interactive tool is the first published platform which allows members of the public to easily view  trends associated with measures to combat Covid-19 in Wales

The data indicate that the Welsh firebreak lockdown had a significant impact on people’s mobility as intended, decreasing visits to retail and recreational spaces, workplaces, and national parks, while increasing time spent in residential settings.

In contrast, the previous local lockdowns had less of an impact on mobility in the affected local authorities, suggesting either that a nationwide approach is more effective or that the localised restrictions were not as stringent.

The data also show that visits to retail and recreation locations in Wales bounced back more quickly in July and August compared to the rest of the UK as Welsh restrictions eased. Similarly, visits to cafes, restaurants, and shops have recovered quickly following the firebreak lockdown, while levels in England remain depressed over the period of its own national lockdown.

The designer of the interactive tool, Cian Siôn, commented:

“The data clearly show that the firebreak lockdown in Wales had the intended effect of dampening mobility and on ensuring that people spent more time at home.

“The localised lockdowns introduced in September and October appear to have had far less of an impact on people’s movements, particularly because the restrictions were different and not as strict as those implemented during the firebreak.

“These trends indicate the major impact devolved policies are having on people’s lives, especially in the context of recent divergences in policy across the nations of the UK.

“This data has been made publicly available by Google and our comparison tool allows users to easily compare mobility within Wales for the first time. Improving accessibility to data on Covid-19 and the Welsh economy is a key objective of our research programme.”

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