New smartphone tracking figures show that traffic has almost doubled in Ireland over the past two weeks, with big increases in outdoor activity too.
The figures from Apple and Google, collected anonymously from the population’s smartphones, suggest that people are relaxing their behaviour with regard to where they go and the amount of time spent outdoors.
Apple’s figures indicate that driving activity is back to 58pc of what it was before the pandemic restrictions were introduced in March, and is up from just 34pc in the first week of May.
The figures, taken from iPhones, also suggest that time spent out walking has risen from 26pc of what it was to 38pc.
Google’s collected data from Irish smartphones shows that people began spending significantly more time in retail and recreational facilities, transit stations and workplaces before the most recent easing of restrictions.
According to Google’s figures from May 16, two days before the last relaxation date, attendance in workplaces was only 40pc down on pre-lockdown figures, compared with 52pc in April, while transit activity is now only 49pc off pre-lockdown numbers, compared with 78pc six weeks ago.
Across the country, there is some variation in the figures.
More sparsely populated counties have returned to workplaces in greater numbers than cities, with counties such as Laois, Carlow, Offaly, Longford, Roscommon and Tipperary showing attendance levels of only 30pc below pre-lockdown figures.
Louth, Meath and Cavan are all recorded as being substantially over the national average for spending time in retail and recreational facilities.
Both Apple and Google say that the phone data collected is anonymised to the extent that it can’t tell whether movement is more or less pronounced among any age group, gender or other profile.
The figures come amid Government warnings that the next phase of easing restrictions may be reassessed if citizens become too casual with coronavirus-related social activity guidelines, leading to an upward swing of cases.
However, there is also growing pushback against some of the more stringent measures being adopted as part of the State’s Covid-19 containment efforts, with some Cabinet ministers urging the Government to consider replacing a two-metre distancing figure with one or one-and-a-half metres, as advocated by the World Health Organisation.
Meanwhile, a public release for the Government’s contact-tracing app has been put back with no new fixed date after the HSE said that it would not be available by the end of this month, as promised.
A spokeswoman for the HSE said that the Irish app, which is based on the Apple-Google technology, is “on track” for the “completion” of its development in the next few days, with a “large-scale field test” to follow before it is released.
She said that the Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) for the app “will be made available in parallel with the field test and this will be followed by full launch of the app, subject to the necessary approvals from Nphet, HSE and Government”. However, she did not say when the app was expected to be launched.
“The app will be available when it is fully operational and when all approvals are in place from the relevant authorities, as part of the implementation of the Covid-19 Roadmap for Recovery,” the spokeswoman said.