New data published by search engine Google has revealed how the Coronavirus outbreak is impacting mobility across the GCC. The research shows the quarterly percentage change of each country based on a range of key indicators including parks, transit and grocery stores.
Across all metrics, the average reduction for the whole of the GCC during the first three months of 2020 was 34.1%. Bahrain experienced the least mobility reduction in the region at -21.2% – followed by Kuwait (-36.3%), Oman (-37.8%), Saudi Arabia (-38.5%) and the UAE (-42.33%).
Residential mobility, as well as the grocery and pharmacy segment, were least impacted across the region, with respective changes of -27% and +22.83% on average. The most substantial effects were recorded in the transit and retail segments, with average reductions of -60% and -53.2% respectively, due to a series of protective measures against COVID-19 put in place across the GCC.
These have included lockdowns or curfews by Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, while all nations have suspended the majority of passenger flights to combat the spread. Bahrain’s response – which was praised by the World Health Organisation during the early stages of the outbreak – has involved keeping open shops and other essential facilities while increasing public testing capabilities.
Ministers from GCC countries have also been keeping in close contact during recent weeks via virtual meetings to discuss economic impact and avenues of mutual support. Dr. Omar Al Ubaidly, Director – Studies and Research of Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (Derasat) emphasised the importance of taking early steps against COVID-19 in ensuring the continuity of these segments.
He said, “The question of how to balance health and economic interests during the pandemic is a very difficult one being faced by all countries at present. What is certain is that any tradeoff between the two is significantly improved by having better levels of preparation and testing. In this regard, Bahrain’s early steps have allowed it to maintain more normal lifestyles for its residents while still limiting the spread of the coronavirus.”