The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) has conducted a research that could explain the relation between human mobility and the spread of coronavirus, as well as the effectiveness of mobility restriction measures to contain the pandemic.

According to a press release of the Commission on Wednesday, the study, said to be the first of its kind was done based on anonymized and aggregated mobile phone location data voluntarily provided by 14 mobile network operators in 19 member states of the European Union (EU) and Norway, said the Commission.

“Mobility data at EU scale can help understand the dynamics of the pandemic and possibly limit the impact of future waves,” said JRC in the abstract of the report.

JRC said such kind of study had never been done before since “a reliable and consistent method to measure the evolution of contagion at international level is missing”.

According to the study, the results of data analysis provided clear evidence that mobility had an impact on the spread of the virus and that mobility alone explained the initial spread of the virus in Italy, France and Spain.

In addition, analysis of the data revealed that containment measures taken by EU governments and regions, “including physical distancing and mobility restrictions” proved efficient in limiting the spread of the virus and when physical distancing measures were put in place, the mobility factor became less important in defining the spread of the virus.

“These findings help us prepare for different possible scenarios for the future which is vital in the context of reopening travel and businesses,” said the Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton, who spearheaded the initiative.

The experience gained also shined a positive light on the opportunities offered by Business-to-Government data sharing, especially in times of crisis, Breton added.

The study also revealed that the best way to prevent a lock-down and keep the economy open in the future, while containing a virus outbreak, would be to apply mobility restrictions on “mobility functional areas” within which people usually move, rather on administrative areas such as regions or provinces, as such “mobility functional areas” quite often cross borders of two regions.

According to JRC, all the data gathered from the mobile operators will be kept for just as long as the COVID-19 crisis is ongoing, in line with the views of the European Data Protection Supervisor.

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