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Kenyans moving less even after anti-Covid measures relaxed

By Hillary Orinde | September 3rd 2020 at 03:35:27 GMT +0300

An aerial view of Machakos Bus Station in Nairobi, April 23, 2020. A study has said more people have kept away from public transport as compared to pre-pandemic period. [File, Standard]

Nearly 60 days after President Uhuru Kenyatta lifted orders barring movement into and out of Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera counties, effectively opening up the country, mobility is yet to return to pre-Covid levels, new data shows.

A study by tech giant Google, which collates mobile phone movement, revealed that foot traffic at transit hubs has fallen by 16 per cent as compared to the January-February baseline.

Google said the report showed trends over several weeks with the new data representing approximately three days before August 30.

It compares the findings to the five-week period from January 3 to February 6, before social distancing, stay-at-home orders or other restrictions came into effect.

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The number of people coming and going from places of work has decreased by four per cent while those going into supermarkets and pharmacies are downbeat by six per cent, the data showed.

The report covered six location types including retail and recreation, grocery and pharmacy, transport hubs, parks, workplaces and residential areas.

It noted that movement into retail and recreational facilities such as restaurants, cafés, shopping centres and theme parks dropped by 10 per cent.

There are, however, more people visiting parks as the footfall increased by seven per cent as at August 30 highlighting recovery hopes for the tourism sector.

In early July, Kenya slashed entry fees to major wildlife sanctuaries for both local and foreign tourists to leap out the sector that had borne the brunt of the travel restrictions occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.

More people are also heeding the government directive to stay at home with the time spent in residences up by seven per cent as compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Sampling of Nairobi County data report. [Courtesy, Google]

While Google recommends against comparing rural verses urban trends, due to "location accuracy and the understanding of categorised places varying from region to region" there are notable outliers in county data.

For example, Homa Bay County has recorded more people using public transport and going to work places by 21 and five per cent respectively.

Mobility to workplaces in Busia County was also up by 19 per cent.

The Nakuru Metropolitan area has also seen more people visiting restaurants, cafés, shopping centres, theme parks, museums, libraries and cinemas.

Google, however, placed an asterisk on the three counties' findings, noting that the data did not meet "quality and privacy threshold for everyday in the chart."

The Google community mobility report was launched earlier this year to track people’s movement and covers more than 131 countries across the world.

Google holds the data is helpful to public health officials to understand how people’s movement have changed in response to the pandemic.

In this respect, the report includes anonymised data tracking of the movements of people who have turned on the location history setting on their Google account.

"These reports use differential privacy, which adds artificial noise to our data sets enabling high-quality results without identifying any individual person. These privacy-preserving protections also ensure that the absolute number of visits isn’t shared," notes Google.

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