People are now moving between districts and regions at similar levels to before the novel coronavirus hit Ghana in early 2020.
That is according to a new report on travel within the country by Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), Flowminder Foundation and Vodafone Foundation.
The GSS and Flowminder discovered that following a sharp reduction in travel during the partial lockdown of 2020, people in at least half the regions are now moving within and between regions as much as they were before beginning of the pandemic, after analysing anonymised and aggregated (group-level statistics) telecommunications network data provided by Vodafone Ghana.
Analysts examined how population movements were impacted by various mobility-related policies since the pandemic’s advent. The report highlights three mobility trends: a decrease during partial lockdown (March 2020); gradual recovery from June to December 2020; and a possible decrease from mid-January 2021 in response to the presidential address about the second wave of COVID-19 in the country.
Government Statistician Professor Samuel Annim said: “The partial lockdown and mobility restrictions are likely to have slowed the rate of COVID-19 infections in the country. A recovery to pre-pandemic mobility levels could be positive for participation in the economy, but poses a challenge in containing COVID-19 outbreaks.
“This analysis reinforces the urgency of a successful vaccination campaign. There is a risk of this increased mobility leading to increased infection rates unless people continue adhering to measures like mask-wearing, handwashing and physical distancing; and that they have the vaccine when it is their turn.”
By February 2021, half of the country’s regions – or more – had recovered to their pre-COVID in-region travel patterns, and the remaining is close to having recovered – including the two most populous regions (Greater Accra and Ashanti) which seem to be experiencing a comparatively slower recovery.
“Large scale changes in mobility are both a cause and an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Vodafone’s data, which is anonymised and processed in a way that maintains the privacy of subscribers, is helping government better understand how people’s travel patterns have changed over the past year – which can be used to support upcoming policy decisions and keep control of the epidemic,” said Patricia Obo-Nai, Chief Executive Oﬃcer (CEO) of Vodafone Ghana.
While the analysis provides insights on how people have been moving nationally and regionally compared to the start of 2020 and to 2019, limitations inherent in the data need to be considered.
“The analysis relies on data from Vodafone Ghana, which provides a good indicator of changes in a population’s movements as a significant proportion of the population is included in the dataset; but changes in phone usage behaviour over time also play a role in the analysis. These can make the comparison of current mobility with last year’s mobility diﬃcult,” explained Wole Ademola Adewole, Implementation Coordinator at Flowminder.
This work is part of the long-standing Data For Good partnership between the Ghana Statistical Services, Vodafone Ghana, the Flowminder Foundation, Vodafone Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. This mobility report follows two previous analyses produced by the partnership in April and May 2020, which estimated how population movements had been affected by mobility restrictions and lockdown measures.