Visits to public places such as groceries, pharmacies, retail outlets, transit areas, and workplaces plunged as a community quarantine was put in place in the Philippines in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19, phone location data show.
Stays at home dramatically increased in the same time period, according to information made available by Google as part of its early release of the Community Mobility Report to help in the fight against COVID-19.
Data released by Apple also showed a massive decrease in driving, walking, or taking transit as can be detected by direction queries for Maps.
How data is collected
The data sets are made publicly available as part of the contribution by the technology platforms in the global battle to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Google gets its data from users who turn on Location History, which is turned off by default. It’s the same data used by Google Maps to “identify when a local business tends to be the most crowded.”
Mobility data from Google
Google said they released the information “to provide insights into what has changed in response to work from home, shelter in place, and other policies aimed at flattening the curve of this pandemic.”
Changes in mobility
To cite one report, Google said that on May 9, 2020 the mobility data for restaurants, cafes, shopping centers, and libraries was down 79%. On the same day, mobility data for parks was down 59%, transit stations down 75%, workplaces down 53%; and groceries and pharmacies down 45%. Mobility data for residential areas, however, was up 28%.
The steep drop is noticeable especially after the imposition of the enhanced community quarantine on March 15 in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon and end of March in Metro Cebu and the rest of Cebu Province.
A comparison with reports for the region also showed a similar trend.
Apple data, on the other hand, also showed a steep decrease in the number of people who query its Maps program for directions for walking, driving, and transit.
Both companies emphasize the strict privacy of the data that they made publicly available. They said the information has been aggregated and anonymized, to prevent individual identification.
In a statement sent to the local press, Google Philippines Country Director Bernadette Nacario said the company hopes that the report “could be helpful to make critical decisions to combat COVID-19.”
The statement also quoted National Privacy Commissioner Raymund Liboro as saying that the data “will help us better understand the mobility of our citizens and the impact of enhanced community quarantine measures to limit the spread of infections.”