Home / News / India /  Five months since lockdown, mobility continues to remain limited

NEW DELHI: India may have completed five months of the nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus across the country, but mobility is yet to return to pre-covid level, latest data showed.

According to Google’s COVID-19 Community Mobility Report, that maps mobility trends across six location types comprising retail and recreation, grocery and pharmacy, transport hubs, parks, workplaces and residential areas, while there has been a gradual improvement in activity levels from 1 June due to easing of restrictions, localized lockdowns across various states such as West Bengal, Bihar, among others, made the progress limited.

India began unlocking its economy in phases, beginning 8 June, allowing more economic activity. Barring in residential areas, mobility had nosedived, when the country imposed the world’s longest, strictest lockdown from 25 March.

Google’s community mobility report was launched earlier this year to track people’s movement and covers more than 131 countries across the world, including India. It shows how much footfalls have changed in these six location categories against a baseline. This baseline is a “median value for the corresponding day of the week", the reference for which is between 3 January and 6 February.

The data set indicates that stepping out for essential services such as groceries and pharmacies that had touched pre-covid-19 levels in June have again fallen below the ‘baseline’ over July and August. For August, the average has been 12%.

‘Retail and recreation’ has not seen a drastic improvement in the last two months. According to the latest data, as on 17 August, it is 45% below the baseline. It is a similar in case of movement at transit stations and workplaces. Having recovered steadily in the beginning of June, these parameters still remained substantially below the ‘baseline’. Workplaces and transit stations are about one-third away from normal physical presence, while footfall at the park is 50% below the pre-covid level.

Besides schools and colleges, services such as metro rail, movie halls, swimming pools, spas, and social and political gatherings, the home ministry has in phases allowed most of the economic activities. States have been adopting their unlock strategies based on the local situation of the pandemic.

On Saturday, the union home ministry asked all states to ensure that there are no restrictions on inter-state and intra-state movement of individuals and goods during the ongoing unlocking process. In a communication to chief secretaries of all states and union territories, home secretary Ajay Bhalla had said there were reports that local level restrictions on movement were being imposed by various districts and states. Such restriction needs to be lifted as it is impacting supply chains, resulting in disruption in economic activity and employment.

As far as economic activity is concerned, earlier this month, finance ministry had said India's economic recovery will depend on how the pandemic behaves across the country in the coming days, especially in industrialized states.

The IMF has estimated Indian economy to contract by 4.5% in FY21, while Goldman Sachs expects June quarter to be the worst with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrinking by 45% as business activity came to a standstill for at least two months due to stringent lockdown measures. According to the Reserve Bank of India’s Survey of Professional Forecasters on Macroeconomic Indicators, GDP may contract 21.5% in June quarter and 5.8% in FY21 before bouncing back to grow at 7.4% in FY22.

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