People’s mobility surpasses pre-pandemic levels
People's mobility has reached the pre-pandemic level in Bangladesh, according to a new Google report, although the coronavirus pandemic is still prevailing in the country.
Bangladesh is the only country in the world that has shown positive growth in all the six indicators of the Covid-19 Community Mobility Report, which was published on March 2.
The positive growth came compared to the baseline period of January last year. The baseline is the median value, for the corresponding day of the week, during the five-week period from January 3 to February 6.
The data set is intended to help remediate the impact of Covid-19 and shows how visits to places, such as corner shops and parks, are changing in each geographic region.
The report shows how visits and length of stay at different places change compared to a baseline. Google calculates these changes using the same kind of aggregated and anonymised data used to show popular times for places in Google Maps.
In Bangladesh, mobility trends for places such as restaurants, cafes, shopping centres, theme parks, museums, libraries, and cinemas rose 13 per cent on March 2 compared to January year.
The trends for places such as supermarkets, food warehouses, farmers markets, specialty food shops and pharmacies were up 41 per cent compared to the baseline.
It rose 12 per cent for mobility trends for places like national parks, public beaches, marinas, plazas and public gardens.
Mobility trends for places that are public transport hubs, such as underground, bus and train stations, went up by 24 per cent.
The visits to places of work increased 10 per cent, and that of mobility trends for places of residence went up 5 per cent compared to the baseline.
"Activities are back," said Zahid Hussain, a former lead economist of the World Bank's Dhaka office.
"Bangladesh has surpassed all pre-pandemic benchmarks," he said, adding that macroeconomic indicators also indicated that there had been a recovery.
In South Asia, India's mobility in the indicators of the supermarket and pharmacy along with that in the residential category is in the positive territory, and the rest are in the negative territory.
Nepal showed positive movements in supermarkets and pharmacy, parks visits and the use of public transport, while it is negative in the indicator of retail and recreation.
Pakistan posted growth in five out of the six indicators. Sri Lanka's mobility grew in the supermarket and pharmacy, and residential categories.
People's mobility increased after the government eased lockdowns in June following the enforcement of strict restrictions on the movement of people and vehicles in April and May with a view to limiting the spread of the rogue virus.
"The demand for train tickets returned to normalcy from January," said Sardar Sahadat Ali, additional director general for operations of Bangladesh Railways.
Khairul Bashar Arif, hailing from Jamalpur, went to Cox's Bazar with his wife, a son and a daughter on February 25. "There was a lot of guests in the hotel we stayed in. We also went to Saint Martin's island. There were a lot of crowds there as well."
Hotel owners also reported a higher presence of guests, particularly from January.
The occupancy rate goes up to 70 per cent to 75 per cent on weekends, said Abdul Kauiam Chowdhury, managing director of Hotel The Cox Today, in Cox's Bazar.
"We have reached the pre-pandemic level," he told The Daily Star yesterday. The occupancy rate ranges from 25 to 40 per cent on weekdays.
Ashfaq Rahman Asif, managing director of Tarka restaurant in Banani, said following the ease of the lockdown, the presence of guests had risen by only 10 to 20 per cent. "But from the second half of February, it has shot up to the range of 60 per cent to 70 per cent."
He credited the renewed confidence among the people following the countrywide rollout of coronavirus vaccines for the improvement in the situation.
Despite the resumption of economic activities, a significant number of new cases are being reported every day, and people are dying.
At least 540 new infections were recorded in the 24 hours to 8:00am yesterday, taking the total number of people infected by the deadly virus to 549,724, according to the Directorate General of Health Services.
Ten people died during the period. The respiratory illness has so far killed 8,451 people in Bangladesh.