As the total number of Covid-19 deaths cross the million mark, it is becoming increasingly evident that the best way to deal with this pandemic is to flatten the curve i.e to stop its transmission. To decrease the possibility of community transmission, countries all around the world are enforcing different levels of lockdowns among the communities. However, not all countries have achieved similar success in implementing its lockdowns. This article looks at the Community Mobility Reports by Google and tries to understand where the lockdown enforced in Bangladesh stands.

The Google Community Mobility Reports report the activities in different locations by comparing the current movement in those places by the average movement before the lockdowns were enforced. The report shows the percentage decrease in mobility in six different types of locations. These are: Grocery & Pharmacy, Parks, Transit stations, Workplaces, Retail & Recreation, and Residential. They obtain this information with the data collected from Google Maps.

Analysis the Community Mobility Of Bangladesh

The Community Mobility Report of Bangladesh compares the current mobility in Bangladesh with the average mobility of a five week period from Jan 3–Feb 6, 2020.

Category Grocery & Pharmacy Parks Transit stations Workplaces Retail & Recreation Residential
Change -46% -26% -66% -60% -68% +24%

FIGURE: Table and Graph Showing the Change In Mobility in Different Locations in Bangladesh / Source: Google Community Mobility Report

The decrease in all outdoor locations and increase in residential locations indicate the enforcement of the lockdown. Of these, the highest decreases in mobility are seen in the locations of Transit Stations, Workplaces and Retail & Recreation. This is an obvious change since a government enforced lockdown means these places were shut down first.

Another important factor to notice is that the Grocery and Pharmacy category might be highly inaccurate. That is because the locations in this category are diversified and can vary greatly between rural and urban areas. These could range from large shops like Unimart and Lazz Pharma in the capital to village bazaars. Moreover, these have to be signed up on Google Maps by the owner. Thus, it is unlikely that the data received by Google Maps can capture the nationwide picture. A similar problem might be seen in the data of the residential locations. A major portion of residential locations are not listed in Google Maps and, thus, might fail to show the actual scenario. Thus, these two sections have not been given much importance in the analysis.

Moreover, a recent announcement in the first week of April that the garments industry might resume its operations resulted in a large number of garments-workers returning to the cities of their workplaces by foot due to lack of transportation. This resulted in huge congestion of people. Even though the decision of reopening the garments factories was reversed, the return of the workers might show significant changes in the mobility patterns as shown in the current report.

Is the Reduction in Community Mobility in Bangladesh Satisfactory?

To understand the effectiveness of the lockdown in Bangladesh, the Community Mobility Report of Bangladesh has been compared with four other countries. Philippines, India and Pakistan have been chosen due to them having high populations like Bangladesh which is an important catalyst of spreading Covid-19. Moreover, their climate and demographic characteristics are also similar to Bangladesh. The fourth country taken is the United States of America. The USA has been chosen because they have, so far, shown a fair degree of incompetence in dealing with the Covid-19 and it is important for Bangladesh to see that it’s not going down the same path.

The comparison has been shown with a treemap diagram. The higher area a country occupies in the rectangular diagram shows the higher overall percentage of community mobility they have managed to decrease.

FIGURE: Comparison of Decrease in Community Mobility of Different Countries / Source: Google Community Mobility Report

The figure shows that The Philippines, India and Pakistan have all occupied a larger area, indicating they have all done a better job reducing community mobility than Bangladesh. While Bangladesh has done a better job than the USA so far, it still cannot be called enough.

Comparatively, Bangladesh has been the most successful in reducing mobility in Retail and Recreation, Transit Stations and Workplaces. Of them, Bangladesh has reduced a higher percentage of mobility in Workplaces than any of the other countries. However, as mentioned before, this can largely be attributed to the General Holiday declared by the Government of Bangladesh till the 11th of April.

However, the insignificant decrease in Parks compared to other countries indicates an alarming trend.

FIGURE: Comparison of Decrease in Mobility in Parks / Source: Google Mobility Report

It might seem that Bangladesh is lagging behind in just one category. However, this is important because public parks are one of the places which is still accessible to the general population and cannot be shut down during general holidays. Thus, the negligible decrease can indicate that, despite not having to go to work, the general population is still not necessarily in their homes. While the Google Mobility Report just visualizes the data in Parks, it might also be the case for other locations still open to the public.

Bangladesh’s Attempt to Flatten the Curve: There Are Still Room for Improvement

This analysis shows that while Bangladesh has made certain strides in reducing community mobility, it still has scopes to improve. It has been seen in the Covid-19 crisis in Italy that the best and possibly the only way to deal with this pandemic is to reduce community transmission as much as possible. To do that, the people and the authorities should together push forward for a more stringent lockdown in the trying times that lay ahead.

Note 1: This article is based on the latest reports available on April 5, 2020

Note 2: A limitation of the Google Mobility Reports is that it is dependent on the enabling of location services in smartphones and thus might show inaccurate data for rural regions

Kidwa Arif, Trainee Consultant at LightCastle Partners, has prepared the write-up. For further clarifications, contact here: [email protected]

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