On October 16, Venezuela will complete 18 months in quarantine due to the covid-19 pandemic. During this period, different confinement methods have been implemented: from absolute quarantine (March 2020), where only workers from prioritized sectors could circulate on the street, to the 7 + 7 method (June 2020), a week of "radical quarantine" followed by a week of "flexible quarantine", which is the one that has been in place the longest. In March 2021, a 7 + 14 quarantine began to be implemented, with two consecutive weeks of restricted mobility. This variation was applied only once and ended up being 7 + 21, with a three-week “radical quarantine” block between March 22 and April 18, as an emergency measure to stop the advance of variant P.1 of the coronavirus, from Brazil. Since then, the 7 + 7 scheme has remained.
President Nicolás Maduro announced that by the end of the year 2021 the Government plans to establish an “expanded flexibility”, eliminating radical quarantines during the months of November and December. Such a measure was carried out in the same way at the end of 2020 and stimulated the revitalization of economic activity, which was particularly affected by the pandemic.
In this context, it is always interesting to know the impact of these regulations on the behavior of the population, in what way the confinement guidelines have been met. And this is where the importance of data analytics stands out. You can estimate how long the quarantine is fulfilled by simple observation: you see a lot or a few people on the street. But this method is very limited in scope and does not provide a general picture. You can also do a survey and ask people if they are complying with the lockdown, but you run the risk that people will answer for convenience and the result will be unrealistic.
This is why the location data stored in smartphones is so valuable. These constantly register our location and send it to Google, and here it is not worth lying or making a calculation "by the eye per cent". Satellite technology constantly monitors the location of all cell phones anywhere in the world.
In May of last year we published a note that gave an account of the impact of quarantine on the mobility of Venezuelans during the first two months of the pandemic. We use the data released by Google on location records from mobile phones with Android operating system. This information is classified by country and is available at https://www.google.com/covid19/mobility/.
The data consist of daily percentage changes in visits to six kinds of places, with respect to the same day of the week in a reference period established between January 3 and February 6, 2020, when WHO had not yet announced the pandemic and there was no lockdown.
Measurement of locations corresponds to: 1- Shops and leisure places 2- Supermarkets and pharmacies 3- Parks 4- Transport stations 5- Work places 6- Residential areas.
This time, we took the data corresponding to Venezuela from March 1, 2020 to September 25, 2021, which is the last record that was available when we consulted to write this work (September 30). So we construct a line chart that shows how location records increase and decrease in different types of places in different periods. To make the graph visually understandable, we used a monthly scale, indicating the data points corresponding to the first day of each month, starting on 1/3/2020 and ending on 25/9/2021.
The first thing that is noticed when observing the image is that there is a clear difference between the first half, corresponding to the year 2020, and the second, which illustrates the situation of the year 2021. The turning point is on January 1, which for reasons Obvias registered the highest level of presence in areas of residence and the lowest in all the others. But as of February we can notice that the year 20201 shows more curves (peaks and valleys) than 2020, which exhibits a more uniform behavior.
The first two months of quarantine in Venezuela were the most marked, with an increase in the presence in residential areas of more than 20% and decreases in visits to supermarkets and pharmacies of more than 40%, as well as more than 50% in parks and workplaces and more than 60% in transport stations and shops. Then the values remain relatively stable for several months, showing a significant reduction in activity outside residential areas with respect to the reference values. In November and December we see how the curves approach the zero point, which corresponds to the period of "extended easing".
After the stoppage of January 1, we can see how the activity increased in all places, reaching the records of supermarkets and pharmacies to exceed the reference values by 16% and the residential areas to show only 5% above.
However, we immediately see how the activity values visibly fall again and that of residential areas rises on April 1. This data corresponds to the period of special radicalization that the Government decreed before and after Holy Week. They were three weeks of quarantine and important blockages of the circulation.
Then we can see how towards May 1 there was a pronounced rebound in mobility and the graph begins to show an important change in behavior.
We see how visits to supermarkets and pharmacies took off and exceeded the values of February 2020 by more than 30% since June and more than 50% since September. This not only accounts for lower quarantine compliance, but could also indicate a rebound in economic activity. In addition, visits to parks, shops and recreation places, as well as work sites, remain only about 10% below the reference values.
But it is in the month of September where we can see the greatest change in behavior. Since August, it has already been noted that the lines of work, parks and stores cross the reference values, showing an activity higher than that of January-February 2020. We already mentioned the case of supermarkets, which is the one with the highest elevation. Only the activity in transport stations has remained more than 15 points below the reference line in recent weeks. But the trend is clearly toward loosening the quarantine.
The latest record available for this analysis, from September 25, shows the highest values of activity in all categories (except transport) and the lowest value of activity in residential areas since the start of the pandemic. Let's review the data from September 25 on a case-by-case basis:
The permanence of people in their houses is registered only 5% above the reference values. In other words, recollection is only a little bit superior to the "old normality."
Activity at work sites shows more than 20% above the values of January and February 2020.
There are 7% more visits to parks than before the pandemic.
Activity in stores and recreation places is 14% above January-February 2020.
Supermarkets and pharmacies are receiving 54% more visits than before the start of the pandemic.
Only transport stations, such as the subway, trains, and bus terminals, show 21% less movement than in February 2020.
The analysis shows that, except for the last two months, the population has mostly complied with the confinement measures established by the authorities. However, the Government has warned of an increase in the incidence of covid-19 cases in recent weeks, particularly in the Capital region. Google data seems to show the correspondence of this alert with the behavior of the population, which has increased activity in public places, even above the "normal" values before the arrival of the coronavirus.