Mobility on Christmas 2020

The last months of 2020 were an eventful time for mobility: The lockdown “light” in November was followed by a more strict lockdown in December. At the same time the holidays had a massive influence on mobility behavior - but in the same way as in previous years?

In this report examine mobility at the end of the year, compare it to the lockdown in spring, and we highlight some special features such as day tourism and long-distance travel.

General Mobility

First, let’s look at mobility in relation to the whole year. We see that the lockdowns at the end of 2020 did cause a distinct reduction in mobility. In fact, mobility towards the end of the year was at a similar level as at the height first lockdown in spring, approximately -40% below the yearly average, as measured by the total number of movements.

However, the comparison to 2019 shows that a large part of the reduction in mobility is caused by the holidays, which decrease mobility every year. The strong reduction in mobility at the end of 2020 is thus composed of two influences: The effect of lockdowns, and the usually lower mobility around the holidays.

Let’s focus on the end of the year to the see the effects in detail: After the Lockdown light on November 2, mobility decreased by around 20 million daily movements, to approximately -10% below the previous year.

One month later we see another decrease in mobility, which was -21% lower than in 2019 at around the lockdown on December 16. The relative level of mobility remained approximately at this level, and at then end of the year there were -18% less movements than the previous year.

In summary, we find that the total reduction in total mobility, which was -40% below the average of 2019 at the end of 2020, is in roughly equal parts caused by the lockdowns and by the effects of the holidays.

Mobility on Christmas

Let’s have a look at December 2020 and Christmas itself, which we can examine using the daily mobility values.

Note: The same date corresponds to different weekdays in 2019 and 2020, which is visible in the daily trip count (as the curves seem “shifted”). Hovering over the curves displays the respective weekdays.

We clearly see the effect of the hard lockdown on December 16 2020, which causes a direct reduction in mobility on that Wednesday. Interestingly, the lockdown has a different effect on different weekdays: While mobility during work days is reduced severly, mobility on the weekends hardly changes.

On Christmas itself, mobility decreases again, and is lower than in 2019:

  • 24.12.: -11%
  • 25.12.: -14%
  • 26.12.: -19%

Long-distance travel

Apart from the general mobility, we also examined specifically how long-distance travel changed during the lockdowns. After all, a main goal of most measures was a reduction of precisely this type of mobility - so did it work?

To analyze this we measured all trips over a distance of more than 100 kilometers. The following graphic shows the comparison between 2020 and 2019.

Compared to 2019 we observe some interesting changes in 2020:

  • Less travel after holidays: The holidays on October 3rd (Day of German Unification) and on November 1st (All Saints' Day) were followed by increased travel mobility in 2019. One can clearly see two peaks on the subsequent Sundays. In 2020 these peaks are missing, highlighting the decreased long-distance travel.

  • Less non-work-related travel (travel on Sundays): In 2019 we observe increased long-distance travel on each Friday and Sunday (the “double peak” in the curve). In 2020 these exist too initially, but after the lockdown light on November 2nd the peak on Sunday is missing almost completely. This indicates that there is still work-related long-distance travel (on Fridays), but less other, leisure-related long-distance travel (on Sundays).

  • Less travel around Christmas: In 2019, there was a high amount of long-distance travel around the Christmas holidays, as well as between Christmas and the new year. In 2020 these movements are missing: Long-distance traffic remains on the level of the previous weeks, and is even slightly lower. All this suggests strongly that the population has significantly reduced its usual travel behavior.

Day tourism

A special form of mobility we observe is increased mobility in typical tourism destinations, which was especially the case during the summer and fall (as highlighted in the previous report).

Between christmas and the new year there were many reports on increased activity in vacation spots such as ski resorts. In fact, we observe an increased travel mobility to such counties in the mobility data, such as Vorpommern-Rügen, Harz, and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. We measure this by counting only traffic between different counties.

We well continue to monitor mobility in the new year 2021 and publish further reports. Until then, the current mobility can be observed in the Mobility Monitor.

Frank Schlosser
Frank Schlosser
Scientific Project Lead

Frank is researching human mobility and its relation to epidemic spreading