Domestic travels hit pre-COVID levels – GSS
People are now moving between districts and regions at similar levels before the novel coronavirus hit Ghana in early 2020, the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS has said.
They arrived at the conclusion based on a new report on travel within the country by GSS, Flowminder Foundation and Vodafone Foundation.
The GSS and Flowminder discovered that following a sharp reduction in travels during the partial lockdown of 2020, people in at least half the regions are now moving within and between regions as much as before the beginning of the pandemic.
This was after analysing telecommunications network data provided by Vodafone Ghana.
Analysts examined how various mobility-related policies impacted population movements since the start of the pandemic.
The report highlights three mobility trends: a decrease during partial lockdown (March 2020), gradual recovery from June to December 2020, and a possible reduction from mid-January 2021 in response to the presidential address about the second wave of COVID-19 in the country.
Government Statistician Professor Samuel Annim said: “The partial lockdown and mobility restrictions are likely to have slowed the rate of COVID-19 infections in the country. A recovery to pre-pandemic mobility levels could be positive for participation in the economy but poses a challenge in containing COVID-19 outbreaks”.
“This analysis reinforces the urgency of a successful vaccination campaign. There is a risk of this increased mobility leading to increased infection rates unless people continue adhering to measures like mask-wearing, hand washing and physical distancing and that they have the vaccine when it is their turn.”
By February 2021, half of the country’s regions – or more – had recovered to their pre-COVID in-region travel patterns, and the remaining is close to having recovered, including the two most populous regions (Greater Accra and Ashanti) that seem to be experiencing a comparatively slower recovery.
“Large scale changes in mobility are both a cause and an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Vodafone’s data, which is anonymised and processed in a way that maintains the privacy of the subscribers, is helping the government better understand how people’s travel patterns have changed over the past year, which can be used to support upcoming policy decisions and keep control of the epidemic,” said Patricia Obo-Nai, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Vodafone Ghana.
While the analysis provides insights on how people have been moving nationally and regionally compared to the start of 2020 and 2019, limitations inherent to the data need to be considered.
“The analysis relies on data from Vodafone Ghana, which provides a good indicator of changes in a population’s movements as a significant proportion of the population is included in the dataset, but changes in phone usage behaviour over time also play a role in the analysis. These can make the comparison of current mobility with last year’s mobility difficult,” explained Wole Ademola Adewole, Implementation Coordinator at Flowminder.