The British government pushed the planned last and biggest reopening, when “all legal limits on social contacts” will be lifted by a month to prevent a third wave due to the delta variant. Post this unlock, theatres, schools, pubs and all other ‘high risk’ places would have been allowed to reopen and function at full capacity again.
The doubts over the reopening are because of a sudden rise in cases believed to be caused by the delta variant of the Covid-19 virus. The government faces a difficult decision as they fear a stronger and deadlier third wave.
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to ensure that ‘data not dates’ would determine when the restrictions will be lifted or not. But what does the data say? If the restrictions are lifted, will people return to pubs and theatres or choose to wait?
To better understand how people might react, we compared how people reacted during the first unlock phase from June’20 – July’20 and the second unlock phase from Mar’ 21 – Apr’ 21. The major cities of London, Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle were selected for the analysis. The audience was classified into two types:
- Covid Fatigue Audience – People who got tired of sitting at home and were likely to visit high risk places like restaurants, pubs, gyms etc., alongside places of necessity like grocery stores and supermarkets.
- Shielding Audiences: This segment is composed of people who are risk averse and choose to step out only for necessities and are seen at grocery stores or supermarkets.
The analysis revealed changes in people’s mobility patterns, the places they visited and the amount of time they spent at the places as well. These patterns could aid the British government get an understanding of how people might behave if the full unlock does take place later this month.
Optimism Prevails – Rise in Risk Takers
Change in Percentage of COVID-Fatigue Audiences with Jun - 20 Numbers as Base
During phase 1 of the unlock (Jun’20-Aug’20), there was a significant rise in the number of covid-fatigue audiences in the cities of London and Newcastle. A similar trend was seen in the cities of Manchester and Leeds. Liverpool and Birmingham, on the other hand, showed a decline in the percentage of people choosing to go out, with Liverpool having a drastic downward curve.
But the numbers tell a different story as the months progress. The number of risk-averse people steadily declined in some cities by August’ 20 and showed a drastic decline by April’21. People from Leeds, Newcastle and Birmingham were more open to going out by April’21 when compared to Jun’20 with Birmingham leading in this trend. The number of people visiting grocery stores and supermarkets across the cities peaked in Aug’20.
Gender: Covid Fatigue Audience
Gender: Shielding Audience
Females emerged as the higher risk-takers than men and visited more high-risk areas than men after phase one of the unlock, with the numbers peaking in Apr’21. On the other hand, there was a decline in the percentage of male audience visiting high risk areas after Jul-20.
Looking at the age groups in the above audiences, the younger crowd aged between 18-34 were more open to going out after the unlock. The data shows a significant rise in the number of risk takers from the 18-24 group with a 145% increase in Apr-21. As universities reopen, this number is only expected to rise. The older age group of 45+ people remained cautious and did not choose to go out even after the second unlock. Across all age-groups however, there was a steady decline in the number of risk-averse people.
So, we have seen that people want to go out, but where are they going?
The numbers show a steady rise in shoppers visiting various places like apparel stores to supermarkets and wineries. Travellers follow closely behind with a steady increase in people seen at hotels/motels, tourist spots, luggage stores etc.
Profile: Covid Fatigue Audience
The graph illustrates the different places people have been visiting. People were mostly venturing out to shop at grocery stores and supermarkets and this segment has shown steady growth since Jun-20 to Apr-21. We can only expect this number to rise as unlocking happens and people return to popular shopping districts and malls.
With work from home being the norm for most professionals, we can see the graph for office-goers has only declined since the last year and could continue to remain at low levels until offices reopen completely. Another segment that has shown a decrease in numbers is the number of people from the more affluent sections of society venturing out.
These patterns give us an idea of what to expect post the last phase of unlock. Visits to places of social interaction would increase, with the younger age demographic taking the lead. These data models could help inform third-phase prevention strategies, identify places of high risk and who are the people expected to visit there. This intelligence on audiences and places can also help brands customise marketing and advertising strategies and unlock growth as the world reopens.