COVID-19 Mobility Report: Life becoming normal

Students wash hands at school in Phalombe, Malawi, Oct. 13, 2020. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the African continent has surpassed 2 million, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said on Thursday. The latest figures from the continental disease control and prevention agency showed that a total of 2,013,388 cases were reported across the continent with the death toll related to the pandemic standing at 48,408 as of Thursday morning. (Photo by Joseph Mizere/Xinhua)

Mr Omar Seidu, Head of Demographic Statistics, Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), says a report on the third COVID-19 Mobility analysis reveals that life is gradually getting back to normal in many regions.

According to the report, following a sharp reduction in travels during the partial lockdown in 2020, people in at least half of the regions were now moving within and between regions as much as they were before the beginning of the pandemic.

The Report conducted by GSS in collaboration with Vodafone Foundation and funded by Flowminder, examined how population movements were impacted by various mobility-related policies since the start of the pandemic.

It highlighted three mobility trends: a decrease during partial lockdown in March 2020, gradual recovering from June to December 2020 and a possible decrease from mid-January 2021 in response to the Presidential address about the second wave of the virus in the country.

On the percentage change in the number of trips between any two districts in Greater Accra, he said each day increased significantly, relative to the lockdown period and immediately after the lockdown, measures were lifted.

He said the trend continued to increase over the remainder of the year, but remained at below levels from the comparable period September 2019 to February 2020.

On the percentage change in the number of trips between any two districts in Ashanti region, he said each day increased immediately by 20 per cent relative to the lockdown period after lockdown measures were lifted, but was still 30 per cent below the baseline level.

However, low levels in September 2020 were notable in contrast to levels during September 2019.

Mr Seidu said the number of trips between any two districts within each region,, excluding Greater Accra and Ashanti regions increased in all regions once lockdown measures were lifted, adding that Savana region recovered quickest , reaching a few per cent below its baseline level in April 24, 2020.

North East showed a sustained increase from September 2020, reaching 30 to 36 per cent higher than the same month in previous year for December 2020 to January 2021, while conversely Upper East saw a sustained decrease.

Central region saw a decrease of 50 per cent compared to baseline in April 2020, which captured the effect of Kasoa being included in the lockdown.

Mr Seidu stated that Eastern, Western, and Greater Accra region experienced an increase in subscriber presence in 2020 compared to 2019, while across 2020, the overall picture was of a small but sustained decrease in year on year presence in Northern regions, with a larger fall in Ashanti region.

On policy implications, he said the sharp decline in mobility observed following the partial lockdown and travel restrictions was likely to have slowed the rate of COVID-19 infection in the country.

He said a recovery to pre-pandemic mobility levels posed a challenge in containing COVID-19 outbreaks, which reinforced the urgency of a successful vaccination campaign.

Professor Samuel Annim, the Government Statistician, said the analysis reinforced the urgency of a successful vaccination campaign, stressing that there was a risk of the increased mobility leading to increased infection rates unless people continue adhering to COVID-19 health protocols.

He said by February 2021, half of the country’s regions or more had recovered to their pre- COVID in- region travel patterns, and the remaining was close to have recovered, Greater Accra and Ashanti regions that seem to be experiencing a comparatively slower recovery.
Mr Wole Ademola Adewole, Implementation Coordination, Flowminder, said the analysis relied on data from Vodofone Foundation, which provided a good indicator of changes in a population’s movements.

Ms Geta Striggner-Quartey, Director of External Affairs and Legal Aid, Vodafone Ghana, said the report would help authorities to harness the importance of data production for prediction and decision making.

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