Lockdown may be over but no one told these residents. While movement has begun to soar in Sydney, in some suburbs it’s barely budged.
It hasn’t taken long but with lockdown over, Sydneysiders have swapped staying at home and are heading out in a big way.
New data given to news.com.au has shown movement has surged by 80 per cent in Greater Sydney on the weekends. In some local government areas (LGAs) it’s nearing pre-lockdown levels.
But it’s not uniform. While Sydney’s CBD has seen a doubling of visitors, locals in some suburbs are treating lockdown like it never ended with movement still hugely down, more so than in Melbourne during its lockdown.
“It’s clear to see from our data that Sydneysiders really embraced the lifting of lockdown restrictions and travelled further afield than they have done for months,” Paul Rybicki, country head of analytic firm DSpark, who provided the data, told news.com.au.
To crunch the numbers, DSpark pored over masses of active and passive data points including information from telcos, the transport network, roads and even the census to build up a picture of how cities are moving.
Trips over 10kms were chosen as that was the original distance limit for NSW during the early part of the lockdown and would show more significant journeys.
Sydney locked down more than Melbourne
Earlier data from DSpark data had revealed that during lockdown Sydneysiders were sticking to the rules more than fatigued Melburnians.
Since October 11, Sydney has been out of lockdown but some measures remain for the moment including being unable to leave the city.
The analysis set a baseline movement level of the weeks before lockdown and since then DSpark has gauged how much movement has altered.
Looking at weekdays, Sydney was at its most locked down in late July when there was 51 per cent less mobility. It was only from early August onwards, when light could be seen at the end of the lockdown tunnel, that people began moving more.
Weekends during lockdown saw even less movement. Between mid July and early October, mobility in Sydney over 10kms was consistently more than 60 per cent below pre-lockdown levels, peaking at 72 per cent lower in late July – lockdown week six.
Sydney’s movement surge after lockdown ended
But when the lockdown shackles came off, Sydneysiders have proven keen to start moving again.
On the first working week after lockdown, from October 11 onwards, weekday movement was just 20 per cent lower than the baseline – that’s a 61 per cent increase in mobility.
And that’s while the government is still encouraging people to work from home.
On weekends, the change was even more dramatic. On the first full weekend after lockdown, movement was just 11 per cent lower than normal.
Compared to lockdown at its tightest, when 72 per cent of Sydneysiders stayed put, that’s an 80 per cent mobility hike.
“While movement unsurprisingly isn’t back to pre-lockdown levels, we anticipate that as vaccination rates continue to increase, that movement will also increase as more of us return to offices and then as of November 1 can look to travel regional,” said Mr Rybicki.
Some parts of Sydney still effectively locking down
However, movement varies hugely across Sydney. (You can look at the data here).
The LGA of Wollondilly, on Sydney’s south western fringe, is just 5 per cent below normal levels. Hawkesbury, where the suburbs and mountains meet, is 8 per cent below.
Aside from those two, it’s many of the former “LGAs of concern” where cases were at their highest which are now the most mobile.
Fairfield, Liverpool and Penrith are between just 10 and 11 per cent below normal movement levels.
Yet, it’s very different at the other, ritzier, end of town. Many of the locals in the Woollahra LGA, which includes some of Australia’s most expensive harbourside suburbs including Double Bay and Rose Bay, are staying put.
Mobility there is still 35 per cent below normal. Even though lockdown is over, Woollahra locals are actually less mobile than Melbourne during its lockdown when, overall, weekday movement never went down by more than 27 per cent.
For some eastern suburbs residents, it’s like lockdown never ended.
Mosman, on the other side of the harbour to Woollahra, is 30 per cent down with Waverley, where the Bondi cluster emerged which led to the Sydney outbreak, is not far behind.
The Northern Beaches LGA is 25 per cent below normal levels of movement. It’s disparagingly known as the “insular peninsula” due to the fact there are only a few roads in and out of the area.
One of the reasons the Sydney outbreak during Christmas 2020 was kept under control was thought be because it was confined to the northern beaches which is easily hived off from the rest of the city.
There were likely demographic reasons behind the mismatch in mobility from one side of Sydney to the other.
Locals in the busy western suburbs consisted of large numbers of essential workers whose jobs involve travelling. While the east and north of the city is full of office workers who can more easily hunker down at home.
CBD sees a big upward trend in visitors
Sydney’s CBD is seeing a resurgence. Although the City of Sydney LGA (which covers the CBD and inner suburbs) is still 25 per cent down from the baseline, there was an average 93 per cent more visitors to the LGA a week after lockdown compared to the week prior.
Sydney’s two other CBDs are seeing more people, although not as much as central Sydney.
There has been a 44 per cent increase in people to North Sydney and it’s 42 per cent up in Parramatta.
“It will be interesting to see how movement progresses in the coming months as holiday season approaches,” Mr Rybicki said.
“Whether regional NSW will be the destination of choice for Sydneysiders or if they put their faith in travelling further afield to other states once borders open up.”
DSpark aren’t the only organisation looking at mobility. Tech giant Google also keeps an eye on movement.
It has examined all of NSW rather than just Sydney so its data includes regional areas that had fewer restrictions.
For NSW, for the week ending October 16, shopping and dining was the big comeback. A few weeks ago, retail was down 40 per cent in compared to the baseline. But across the state that’s now down by just 4 per cent.
Transport usage is still low at -41 per cent. But that’s far less than the two-thirds drop seen during lockdown.
And workspaces are creeping back to according to Google. Across NSW, mobility to offices, hospitals, warehouses and the like is down -17 per cent when it was -25 per cent a few weeks ago.
Apple movement data reveals driving in Sydney is now completely back to normal.
The roads are just as busy now as they were prior to the pandemic.
Train, tram and bus usage is still way down – by 42 per cent in Sydney. However, that’s a huge spike compared to the 80 per cent fewer passengers seen in August.
It’s not as busy as it was prior to lockdown, but bit by bit, Sydney is on the move once more.
Originally published as Movement soars in Sydney as lockdown ends – but not all suburbs have got the memo
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