Graph reveals how well Australian cities are actually adhering to lockdown measures

·5-min read

Revealing new visual information based off Apple Maps data shows just how well cities around the world are adhering to social distancing measures amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The data isn’t available for all Australian capital cities, but it does offer a good insight into four of the nation’s capital cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane.

Through a specially designed Apple website, you’re now able to input a city and see how the travel behaviour and movement of residents has changed during lockdown. The Apple data, linked to peoples’ iPhones and searches in Apple Maps, shows the change when it comes to driving, walking and general transit, from January 13, 2020.

Flinders Street train station in Melbourne, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, following the state governments ban on non-essential mass gatherings of more than 500 people. Source: AAP
Flinders Street train station in Melbourne, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, following the state governments ban on non-essential mass gatherings of more than 500 people. Source: AAP

All four Australian cities saw a drop in movements across the board since roughy mid-March, however there is one city which is staying home more than the other three.

According to the Apple Maps data, Melbourne is seemingly doing the best in terms of limiting movement during the worldwide pandemic. As of April 14, it’s rate of outdoor walking is down 60 per cent and transit is down 83 per cent.

The graph shows how movement in Melbourne has fallen amid the coronavirus crisis. Source: Apple
The graph shows how movement in Melbourne has fallen amid the coronavirus crisis. Source: Apple

Comparatively, Sydneysiders are driving 38 per cent less, walking 56 per cent less and catching public transport 76 per cent less, compared to the baseline.

Public transport usage in Brisbane and Perth is down 77 per cent, and both capitals are on roughly on par with each other in terms of driving with Brisbane down 43 per cent and Perth down 40 per cent.

However, people in Perth are getting out and about a little more than the other capital cities, with walking movements being down 46 per cent.

Meanwhile Brisbane’s walking movements remain on par with Sydney and Melbourne, with Apple data showing them down 57 per cent, just slightly ahead of Sydney, and narrowly behind Melbourne.

A study by tech market research company Telsyte in 2019 estimated that there were 9.1 million active iPhone users in Australia, making it a pretty reliable sample size for this kind of exercise.

And Apple was quick to assure customers their privacy wasn’t being violated, saying it appreciated privacy “is a fundamental human right”.

“Maps doesn’t associate your data with your Apple ID, and Apple doesn’t keep a history of where you’ve been,” it says below the interactive map.

This graph shows how movements in Sydney have dropped since the coronavirus restriction were implemented. Source: Apple
This graph shows how movements in Sydney have dropped since the coronavirus restriction were implemented. Source: Apple

“This data is generated by counting the number of requests made to Apple Maps for directions in select countries/regions and cities.

“Data that is sent from users’ devices to the Maps service is associated with random, rotating identifiers so Apple doesn’t have a profile of your movements and searches.”

Confirmed case numbers of COVID-19 diagnosed in Australia continue to dwindle, however on Thursday the Prime Minister said restrictions will remain in place for at least another four weeks and indicated Australia will need to achieve three things before restrictions are loosened.

The restricted movements across Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane and declining coronavirus cases could indicate social distancing restrictions across Australia are working, especially compared to countries who have not implemented such restrictions.

Sweden has taken a far more relaxed approach compared to Australia and much of the world, allowing much of life to go on as usual and the government is merely suggesting the population adhere to physical distancing rather than strictly policing it with fines.

In the country’s capital Stockholm, driving is down just 16 per cent while outdoor walking searches in Apple Maps were down 39 per cent.

This graph shows the movements in Sweden's capital, Stockholm, where there are no restrictions implemented by the government. Source: Apple
This graph shows the movements in Sweden's capital, Stockholm, where there are no restrictions implemented by the government. Source: Apple

While it appears Australia has avoided horrific scenes seen in countries like Italy and the US, social distancing has still come at a cost with the International Monetary Fund forecasting that Australia is headed for its biggest recession since the Great Depression.

When asked if the social distancing measures and subsequent health gains is worth the huge economic cost, Scott Morrison defended his government’s actions.

“They should google Italy, the United Kingdom, New York - any of these countries will do - Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, and look at the horror show that's happening there and ask themselves the same question," Mr Morrison told Perth radio station 6PR on Wednesday.

Just yesterday, Sweden’s death toll ticked over passed 1000, while the country has reported more than 11,000 cases of COVID-19.

Members of the public are seen walking past a sign asking them to 'Be Responsible' at Scarborough Beach, Perth. Source: AAP
Members of the public are seen walking past a sign asking them to 'Be Responsible' at Scarborough Beach, Perth. Source: AAP

Earlier this week, 22 Swedish-based researchers criticised the Public Health Agency's approach, and urged politicians to intervene with "swift and radical measures".

Schools and restaurants should be shut and all health staff that work with the elderly should have proper protective equipment, and mass testing of health personnel for the virus should be introduced, they said in an op-ed piece in Stockholm daily Dagens Nyheter.

with AAP

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