The Western Cape is staying at home, other provinc
  • By the end of August only the Western Cape was still really locked down, judging by new mobility data.
  • In every other province people were flocking to shops, or parks, or both, in bigger numbers than before the coronavirus hit.
  • Only in Gauteng are people spending more time at home than in the Western Cape, just barely, but they also seem to be going for more walks and going to the supermarket more often than in early 2020.
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In Mpumalanga there are now more people on public transport than there were before the coronavirus hit.

In the Northern Cape, North West, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, and Eastern Cape, parks host more people than before lockdown.

And in Gauteng people are spending slightly more time at supermarkets and pharmacies, and at parks, than they had been in early 2020.

It is only in the Western Cape that lockdown still means fewer people in public areas, according to new mobility data.

Both Google and Apple publish high-level statistics on movement, as part of efforts to help countries, cities, and regions such as provinces, understand how people react to stay-at-home orders and other lockdown restrictions.

As of end August, those numbers suggest, South Africa is mostly out of lockdown, even though many people are working from home or have not returned to their jobs.

The latest data for South Africa on Google's Covid-19 Community Mobility Reports ends on 28 August. Google created a baseline by looking at time spent in various places between early January and early February 2020, then taking the median value for each location.

Compared to that baseline, South Africans are, overall, spending 2% more time at supermarkets and pharmacies, and 3% more time at parks than they did before Covid-19. But those national numbers are heavily influenced by people in the Western Cape, who are staying at home in far greater numbers than their peers in other provinces.

These are the increases against baseline Google recorded by 28 August, by province.

  • Eastern Cape: +18% for parks
  • Free State: +7% for supermarkets and pharmacies, and +9% for parks
  • Gauteng: +3% for supermarkets and pharmacies, and +5% for parks
  • KwaZulu-Natal: +27% for parks
  • Limpopo: +2% for retail and recreation, +4% for supermarkets and pharmacies, and +36% for parks
  • Mpumalanga: +4% for public transport, +12% for supermarkets and pharmacies, and +34% for parks
  • North West: +1% for supermarkets and pharmacies, and +18% for parks
  • Northern Cape: +2% for retail and recreation, +3% for supermarkets and pharmacies, and +16% for parks

By contrast the Western Cape was down 25% for retail and recreation locations, down 11% for supermarkets and pharmacies, and down 39% for parks.

The Western Cape also had by far the lowest use of public transport, down by slightly over half compared the baseline, and was joint first with Gauteng when it came to people at workplaces, with both down 34%.

The only lockdown metric in which the Western Cape was beaten by end August was in time spent at places of residence. That was up 14% in the Western Cape, compared to an increase of 15% in Gauteng. (In KwaZulu-Natal time at places of residence was up 11%, in all other provinces it was up by single-digit percentages.)

A similar pattern can be seen in less comprehensive data Apple publishes on the number of routing requests it receives via Apple Maps.

In the Western Cape such requests remain well below the levels seen earlier in 2020...

Apple's mobility report for the Western Cape
Western Cape routing. (Apple)

... while they are above baseline on some days in every other province – in some cases dramatically so.

Routing requests to Apple in Limpopo.
Limpopo routing. (Apple)
Routing request in the Northern Cape.
Northern Cape routing requests. (Apple)

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