The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS’) Data Science Campus has been looking at newly released data from Google to assess the impact of social distancing measures in the UK and see if it can be useful to policymakers.

Early findings from this data already show that on 29 March 2020:

  • visits and time spent at retail and recreation locations has been falling consistently since guidance on working from home was announced on 16 March; by 29 March, it was down 85% compared with the baseline
  • while there was a sizeable increase in grocery shopping activity before school closures were announced on 20 March (24% over the baseline), activity has since fallen, and as of 29 March was 45% below usual levels

Google’s COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports use anonymised information from users who have chosen to turn on their device’s Location History setting and give a percentage change in levels of mobility, compared with a baseline period from 3 January to 6 February.

The Data Science Campus has extracted anonymous data from these reports to make them publicly available so that they can be used by policymakers within government who are leading on analysis of social distancing measures.

National statistics organisations and other public groups worldwide are now using methods and data extracted from the reports by the Data Science Campus to carry out their own analysis to support their response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This is part of the ONS’ wider work to see how new data sources can help shed new light on COVID-19’s impact on the UK’s society and economy.

Tom Smith, Director of the ONS Data Science Campus, said:

“Teams across ONS are working with partners in government, industry and academia to rapidly analyse data that can assist with the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK.

“De-identified, anonymous data, collected and developed by organisations outside government, can add to what we know about the economy, society and the environment. This data from Google could help provide additional insight into movement patterns across the UK and local areas. By helping others to access it, we are ensuring that further analysis can take place so that the public and government can better understand the impact of COVID-19.”

You can follow all of the ONS’ latest extra analysis on the impact of COVID-19 on our COVID-19 webpage.

You can also go to the Data Science Campus blog.