Household mixing significantly decreased during the first lockdown in England and remained fairly low during the second lockdown, however, it increased during the third lockdown reports a study published in Scientific Reports. The authors found that the increase in the mix of households by mid-February 2021 in the third lockdown was correlated with the larger COVID-19 vaccination rollout across England.
Professor Ed Manley and his colleagues employed GDPR compliant mobile data from more than one million anonymous users who had consented to their data being used for research purposes. The researchers compared the mix of household members across the pandemic to the baseline levels. This was determined using average household visits eight weeks prior to the pandemic in England. The authors observed the largest reduction of 54.4% in household mixing during the first lockdown (starting in March 2020) which increased gradually through 2020 as restrictions were lifted. The authors also observed household mixing decreased by 15.28 percent during the second lockdown (starting in November 2020) and the initial month of the third lockdown, by 26.22 percent (January 2021). Household mixing varied across regions, with some urbanised areas including London, Manchester and Cambridge that have seen a rise in household mixing.
Despite national restrictions still in place, the dramatic increase in household mix mid-February 2021 was higher than baseline levels by between 1.4% to 23.3%. The announcement that the most vulnerable were vaccinated coincided with an increase in household mix and the expansion of the vaccination program across England. The authors suggest that this dramatic increase in household interaction during the third lockdown might be due to the widespread belief that vaccinations are safe. The authors suggest that the mixing of households was also heightened in later lockdowns because of “lockdown fatigue”.
The study’s authors conclude that the collection of mobile phone data may provide a useful privacy-preserving tool in helping assess the effectiveness of COVID-19 public health policies on local and national levels. The authors didn’t predict any associations between potential future restrictions or booster vaccinations and household mixing.
Ross, S., and Ross, S., and. (2021). Household visits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Scientific Reports. doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-02092-7.
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