Coronavirus: Mobility data provides insights into virus spread and containment to help inform future responses

New studies published today by the Commission’s Joint Research Centre explain the relationship between human mobility and the spread of coronavirus, as well as the effectiveness of mobility restriction measures to contain the pandemic. The findings, based on aggregated and anonymised mobile phone location data, will support policymakers in formulating the best data-driven approaches for ending confinement, mapping the socio-economic effects of lockdown measures and informing early warning systems for potential new outbreaks. Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, responsible for the Joint Research Centre, said: “Digital technologies and social sciences are instrumental in the Commission’s data and evidence-driven crisis response and policy measures to fight the pandemic. I would like to thank mobile operators who provided unique access to their datasets, thereby contributing to the fight against this public health threat.” Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, added: “These findings help us prepare for different possible scenarios for the future which is vital in the context of reopening travel and businesses. This experience also shines a positive light on the opportunities offered by Business-to-Government data sharing, especially in times of crisis.” Some 14 mobile network operators in 19 EU Member States and Norway provided their data to the Joint Research Centre. Thanks to this public-private cooperation, a systematic analysis of the relationship between human mobility and virus spread was conducted for the first time by Joint Research Centre scientists, together with a comparative cross-country analysis of the efficiency of containment measures. The findings also suggest that mobility restriction can be better targeted when taking into account geographical mobility patterns, that can cut across regions or provinces, rather than administrative areas. Additional studies will follow and more mobile phone operators may join to cover more countries. This initiative is part of the plan to support exit strategies through mobile data and apps, as announced in the April 2020 Commission recommendation and follows the favourable letter of the European Data Protection Supervisor. You will find further information here.