Second Wave: How Mobility Across Different States And Districts Is Faring
Delhi Police barricades line a deserted street during lockdown restrictions imposed by the state government in New Delhi, India, on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. Photographer: Sumit Dayal/Bloomberg

Second Wave: How Mobility Across Different States And Districts Is Faring

Mobility indicators have fallen sharply over the last couple of weeks as the second wave of Covid-19 infections spreads across the nation.

Even without a nationwide lockdown, Google Mobility Data shows a sharp fall in aggregate mobility to levels seen between May and July last year.

  • Mobility across the supermarkets and pharmacies category is 20.3% below the pre-pandemic baseline on a seven-day moving average basis as of May 6. This is the lowest it has been since May 2020.
  • The seven-day moving average for mobility to workplaces also fell to levels that it had touched in May last year. It’s now 47% below the baseline.
  • The seven-day moving average for mobility to places of retail and recreation is 59.4% below the baseline as of May 6, 2021—a level last seen in July 2020.

Google shares mobility trends on a daily basis and changes for each day are compared to a baseline value for that day of the week from Jan. 3–Feb. 6, 2020. A seven-day moving average was used to smoothen out mobility trends and account for day-to-day volatility.

Mobility has dipped 35-43% across locations barring retail and recreation which has seen a much sharper contraction to the extent of nearly 50%. This correction has meant a setback in mobility by nearly 6-12 months.
Yuvika Singhal, Economist, QuantEco Research

Also read: Consumer Goods Sector’s Rural Cushion Is Depleted In Second Covid Surge: BQ Exclusive

How Different States Are Faring

However, unlike last year, there is greater divergence in mobility across states and across categories.

In the retail and recreation category, which expectedly is the worst impacted, Delhi Karnataka, Chandigarh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra are worst impacted.

Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh are least impacted in the North East. A few of the southern states, including Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, are also relatively better off.

In the category of mobility to workplaces, activity is less impacted than movement across areas of retail and recreation.

The states worst impacted in this segment are Delhi, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh.

Tripura, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh are seeing the best movement to and from workplaces.

Grocery and pharmacies, the segment to which movement is least impacted, has seen sharp drops in Meghalaya and Mizoram. Other states with a material drop include Delhi, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.

Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar are among the least impacted.

Disparate Trends Even Within States

Even within states, district level trends wary.

Within the grocery and pharmacies category, Central India has the largest collection of districts where mobility has fallen the most. Southern India, along with the Eastern coastline are relatively less impacted.

Across workplaces too, the disticts that saw the sharpest drop in mobility were concentrated in Central India, with many districts in the South and North East seeing only small drops compared to the baseline.

In the retail and recreation segment, though, trends were more disparate even within regions. Here, large parts of the South, West, Central and North India are seeing sharper falls as the virus spreads and citizens turn cautious.

Mobility & Growth Diverge?

While last year the drop in mobility ran alongside a fall in economic activity, this time economists say there may be a divergence.

The drop in mobility may exaggerate the hit to economic activity, said Sonal Varma and Aurodeep Nandi, economists at Nomura. “International experiences suggest the correlation between mobility and GDP growth is much weaker during the second wave, due to more targeted restrictions and more pandemic-adept consumers and businesses,” they said.

The growth hit will not be insignificant though. Nomura has reduced its India growth forecast for FY21 to 10.8% from 12.6% earlier.

“The reimposition of lockdown measures will curb economic activity and could dampen market and consumer sentiment,” Moody’s Investors Service said in a note on May 12. “However, we do not expect the impact to be as severe as during the first wave.”

“Unlike the first wave where lockdowns were applied nationwide for several months, the second wave “micro-containment zone” measures are more localised, targeted and will likely be of shorter duration,” said Moody’s while reducing its India growth forecast for FY22 to 9.3% from 13.7% earlier. “Businesses and consumers have also grown more accustomed to operating under pandemic conditions.”

Also read: Covid-19 Second Wave: Farm Arrivals Drop Despite Localised Lockdowns

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