Data provided by Apple on levels of mobility by Apple Maps users suggests that Northern Ireland has seen less of a drop in motor traffic levels than any other area in the United Kingdom or Ireland.
The chart above shows average motor traffic levels by week, compared with the week commencing Sunday the 19th of January, for the regions of the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Italy and Spain. The data suggests that this week motor traffic levels in Northern Ireland are 47% of what they were in January. By comparison, traffic levels in the Republic are less than 30% of January levels; in Italy and Spain traffic is still only at 24% of the levels observed in January.
Within Ireland, there has been a significant difference in the fall in traffic levels between counties. The chart below shows road traffic levels for the week commencing the 29th of March 2019, which was the height of the lockdown in many regions, compared with the week commencing the 19th of January.
The traffic reduction observed in Dublin was almost as dramatic as what was seen in Italy and Spain, with over an 80% reduction in road traffic. In Northern Ireland and County Wexford traffic levels dropped off to a much less severe extent, with peak-lockdown motor traffic levels exceeding 35% of January levels.
It is arguable that population density could play a role in traffic levels; for example, it is much easier to visit a supermarket without a car in Dublin than Donegal. But this doesn’t explain why traffic levels are higher in comparatively urban County Louth than more rural County Clare, for example.
It could be argued that the mobility data shows that there is a “lockdown fatigue” effect taking place. Motor traffic levels have risen by 10.2% (of January levels) in Northern Ireland from the peak of the lockdown at the end of March; in England traffic has risen by 8.7% over the same period, whilst traffic is up 7% in the Republic of Ireland over the same period.
Whilst variations between regions in mobility levels could be attributed to different types of worker in each region (for instance, Dublin will have comparatively more workers able to work from home than rural counties), the increase in motor traffic levels observed in April is more likely to be due to “lockdown fatigue” than any other cause.
Data for public transit activity and walking isn’t available for Northern Ireland, but the following chart shows how motor traffic data compares with walking and public transport activity for a range of cities that have seen significant coronavirus outbreaks. The pattern is similar across different regions; walking and public transport tends to have larger reductions than motor traffic levels.