New data from tech giant Google shows just how well Aucklanders are complying with our level 3 lockdown restrictions – and how their behaviour compares to those in Victoria.
It's been about a week since we learned that Covid-19 had returned to the community. A day later, on Wednesday August 12, Auckland was placed into level 3 lockdown and the rest of the country returned to a world of social distancing at alert level 2.
Despite not being in full-blown level 4 lockdown, the expectation for Aucklanders is clear: "If you are in Auckland, stay home where possible," the Civil Defence alert sent out to mobile phones last week read.
So, just how well are Aucklanders following that instruction? New data suggests they're more complacent than they were during the nationwide lockdown earlier this year. But it also shows they're following the rules to a similar extent as those in Victoria, despite the state being weeks into a major second wave of Covid-19.
The data comes from Google's latest community mobility report, which charts movement trends over time by geography, across different categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces and residential.
The report, Google claims, "aims to provide insights into what has changed in response to policies aimed at combating Covid-19".
When we reported on Google's mobility data in April, in the midst of the nationwide lockdown, the scale of the reduction in usage in New Zealand was remarkable. Retail and recreation traffic was down over 90 per cent compared to a baseline. Grocery and pharmacy, two categories that are allowed to operate, saw custom more than halve, while park usage was down nearly 80 per cent.
Those figures are significantly different to Google's latest, although of course, more than three million New Zealanders have a degree of freedom at level 2. Currently, retail and recreation traffic is down just 25 per cent nationwide, with supermarket and pharmacy down a slight 7 per cent.
In the supercity, the data is a different story.
Retail and recreation traffic in Auckland is 57 per cent down on its baseline, and parks are 48 per cent down. Public transport, understandably, has crashed 73 per cent, while workplaces have dropped by 51 per cent. Supermarket and pharmacy data is just 17 per cent down.
Looking back to April, the differences are clear. Obviously, that's when Auckland was at level 4 – but it's interesting to contrast these new figures considering businesses are still expected to have staff either work from home or, if allowed to operate, comply with the Covid-19 restrictions. The number of people allowed to be on the premises of supermarkets and pharmacies should be the same now as at level 4, and yet traffic in those areas is significantly higher than it was during the nationwide lockdown – it's down 17 per cent now compared to 55 per cent in April.
Retail and recreation was down almost 90 per cent in Auckland during the lockdown, as opposed to 57 per cent now. Workplaces were down 64 per cent compared to a 51 per cent drop now at level 3.
That being said, overall, Auckland is down more than other regions in New Zealand.
Let's compare this with the epicentre of Australia's current Covid-19 wave, the state of Victoria. Today, the state recorded 222 new positive cases and 17 Covid-19-related deaths.
Despite the daily death toll increase, Victoria's Google data is decidedly similar to that of Auckland. Retail and recreation is down a little over 50 per cent and supermarket and pharmacy, 19 per cent. Parks are down 55 per cent. With everyone instructed to stay home: Auckland's residential usage is up 28 per cent, more than Victoria's 26 per cent.
The comparison, then, between Victoria now and New Zealand in April is astounding. When we were in lockdown, for example, park usage nationwide was down 78 per cent compared to Victoria's 55 per cent. Retail was down 91 per. cent to Victoria's 53 per cent.
Google has data available for hundreds of regions and countries, which can be accessed here.