IN AVERAGE POPULATION ACROSS OUR CBDs COMPARED TO BEFORE COVID‑19
Mobility in every one of the CBDs was still lower last week than it was this time last year. The Christchurch and Dunedin CBDs were closest to normal. Since all the recent COVID-19 cases have been far away in the North Island, it’s possible people in these cities feel safer returning to the city.
Even though the alert level was lower last week than four weeks ago, mobility in most of the CBDs was slightly lower. Auckland CBD showed the largest increase in mobility, as it began to recover from the second lockdown.
Data Ventures is working together with the major telecommunication companies in New Zealand.
Using the aggregated and anonymised mobile data[*] provided to them, along with Stats NZ expertise, Data Ventures has created population estimates of residents and visitors in New Zealand every hour down to suburb level. Read more in the footnotes.
Here, we compare mobility last week to a normal week in 2019. This gives us a snapshot of how many people are coming and going in the CBDs now compared to before COVID.
Our mobility measure is created using the difference between maximum and minimum population estimates in New Zealand CBDs over a day.
Here, we compare mobility last week to 4 weeks ago during the end of COVID Alert Level 2 (2.5 for Auckland). This gives us an idea of mobility in the CBDs has changed after the return to Alert Level 1.
As restrictions have lifted, central city businesses are able to operate as usual again. But not everything is back to normal. Now is a good time to see how the aftereffects of lockdown continue to impact the CBDs.
In this section, we explore how mobility in the CBDs has changed over COVID-19. To do this, we have calculated our mobility measure for each week, compared to a similar week in 2019.
This allows us to see how each CBD is tracking compared to others around the country. We can also see how the changing alert levels have affected how many people are entering and leaving the CBD.
The first time we returned to Alert Level 1, mobility in several CBDs was higher than it was before COVID-19. A month of cabin fever may have drawn people back into the central city for a while, but the novelty seems to have worn off.
Now that we are back at Alert Level 1, all the CBDs are quieter than they were last time. More central city employees working from home, businesses closing down, and changes to personal routine all mean the return to pre-COVID levels of activity in the CBD could be slow.
Mobility in the Christchurch CBD fell the least during the return to Alert Level 2. Christchurch businesses may well be used to disruption. All the new cases were also far away in the North Island, so Cantabrians may have been less cautious as a result.
In this section, we look at hourly population counts in the CBD over the course of the week.
We cover off three periods: last week, four weeks ago during the previous alert level, and a normal week in 2019. We have broken out the comparisons into two. We first compare last week to a normal week in 2019 to see how the CBDs are doing compared to last year. We then compare last week to four weeks ago to see how population patterns in the CBD have changed after the return to Alert Level 1.
The different alert levels each came with different restrictions on business activity. As the whole country has recently returned to Alert Level 1, it’s helpful to know how this might affect population patterns in the CBD.
These plots show the hourly population counts in the CBD for each week in 2020.
Alert Levels 3 and 4, unsurprisingly, flatlined the CBDs. At Level 2 most businesses could re-open, but not everyone was back in the CBD. Smaller daytime population peaks suggest many people were still working from home or avoiding crowded areas.
The other loss at Level 2 was the Saturday night-life. Clubs and bars were open only for socially-distanced, sit-down food and drink. But this change wasn’t permanent: in an average week at Level 1, Saturday night population peaks were noticeably stronger in several CBDs than they were before COVID-19. The most dramatic change was in the Dunedin CBD. Students making up for lost time?