Chart of the Week : Mobility in DM countries in the time of COVID-19 (Update: Nov. 17)

Macro
Christopher Dembik

Summary:  Our 'Macro Chartmania' series collects Macrobond data and focuses on a single chart chosen for its relevance.


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As Europe has closed doors for the second time this year, we look once again at Google Community Mobility Trends data to assess the impact of the lockdown. The below chart shows you the trend in terms of visits and length of stay in the retail and recreation sector, one of the most affected sectors by the pandemic. The data covers the main DM countries and refers to the situation as it was two to three days ago. This lag corresponds to the time needed to collect data.

Without much surprise, the lockdown is less strict than that of Spring, but it is still impacting quite substantially some countries more than others. So far, the biggest drop in activity has happened in France which has enacted a rather strict lockdown from October 30 that is likely to go beyond the initial deadline of December 1. Last week, France’s Prime Minister warned in a televised speech that significant restrictions could subsist at least until the Christmas holidays. We expect that other Europeans countries will likely follow the same path and will refrain from committing the same mistakes than in Q3 when reopening the economies. In our view, a degree of restrictions, that is likely to evolve depending on the evolution of the pandemic, will be maintained for the coming months, perhaps until next Spring.

In the case of France, the visits to retail and recreation stores are down 55% compared to the baseline versus minus 88% during the harshest lockdown period in past Spring. The decline in transit stations is also very important, at minus 47% and we find similar trends in workplace visitors, with a drop of 31% reflecting strong government’s incentives to promote remote work. We can draw at least two conclusions from the situation prevailing in France. In contrast to the initial reaction to the pandemic, the government has managed to find this time a balance between protecting people's health and protecting the economy. The second lockdown could see the economy plunge 4-5% in Q4 versus a contraction by 13.8% in Q2. In addition, it appears that the level of compliance with social distancing restrictions is quite high among French citizens. A more targeted approach in dealing with the pandemic combined with a high degree of population compliance with the new restrictions has managed in less than to weeks to generate a decrease in the rate of new infections.

Looking at the other European countries in our sample, we also find a decrease in activity, but rather limited compared to that of France. The visits to retail and recreation stores are down 47% in the United Kingdom, 34% in Italy and 31% in Germany. In these three countries, restrictions are less significant than in France. For instance, none of them has introduced an exemption certificate allowing to leave home under very specific circumstances (i.e. medical appointments or commuting to and from work). Finally, at the other end of the spectrum, we have two countries with little restrictions: Japan and the United States. In the case of Japan, the absence of drop in activity is explained by efficient COVID-19 management (the number of new cases as of yesterday is decreasing at 1459) while in the United States, everything suggests that the health situation will worsen rapidly as the country is affected by the second wave. Over the past two days, many states have implemented new restrictions, which are not showing up yet in Google’s mobility data due to the lag associated to data collection. As about thirty one states have recently decided to enact new COVID-19 rules, we should see in the next two or three days a very large drop in activity, notably in the visits to retail and recreation.

Europe’s second lockdown

 

Start date

End of lockdown

Germany

Nov. 2

Nov. 30

France

Oct. 30

Dec. 1

Italy

Oct. 26

Nov. 22

Spain

Oct. 26

Not decided yet

Netherlands

Oct. 23

Nov. 19

Belgium

Nov. 2

Dec. 13

United Kingdom

Nov. 5

Dec. 2

In most cases, some form of restrictions will probably remain after the intended end of the lockdown in order to avoid to create favorable conditions for a third wave of the virus hitting Europe after the Christmas holidays. Therefore, the indicated dates are only indicative.


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