Sweden to use mobile data to track coronavirus spread

Sweden to use mobile data to track coronavirus spread
Commuters using the Stockholm metro on April 7th. Photo: Ali Lorestani/TT
Swedish health authorities are set to use mobile data to analyse how people's movement affected the spread of the coronavirus in Sweden.

The Swedish Public Health Agency, Folkhälsomyndigheten, has been granted access to these mobile data by network operator Telia. The data, the agency stated, will be aggregated and anonymised.

Health authorities want to use the information to study how mobility patterns within the population coincide with the spread of the coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, across Sweden.

The data could subsequently also be used as the basis for future policy proposals or to assess the effects of measures that have already been taken to limit the spread of the virus, such as the recommendations regarding social distancing and avoiding unnecessary journeys.

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A recent study by Google, so-called Covid-19 Community Mobility Reports, looked at people's mobility within countries, especially the increased or decreased visits to certain services and public places.

Google established a significant decrease (-36 percent) in Swedes passing through transit hubs such as bus stops and train stations last month. The sector 'retail and recreation', for example shopping centre, cafes and restaurants, also had far fewer visits (-24 percent) than usual.

In addition, Google established a fall in the number of people moving to and from work places (-18 percent), suggesting that a higher number of people living in Sweden decided to stay at home.

Parks, on the other hand, gained wide popularity (+46 percent), being one of the few places in cities where their inhabitants can move around while keeping a safe distance from each other. This increase may also be affected by the sunny weather as spring arrived in Sweden.

However, mobility changed much more in countries that have so far been worse affected by the coronavirus, and have had stricter restrictions imposed. In Italy, movement to and from work places fell 63 percent in March compared to the baseline figure, and retail and recreation dropped by 94 percent.

What should you be doing to help reduce the rate of infection?

In Sweden, the official advice requires everyone to:

  • Stay at home if you have any cold- or flu-like symptoms, even if they are mild and you would normally continue life as normal. Stay at home until you have been fully symptom-free for at least two days.
     
  • Practise good hygiene, by regularly and thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water, using hand sanitiser when that's not possible, and covering any coughs and sneezes with your elbow.
     
  • Keep distance from all other people when in public places. That includes shops, parks, museums, and on the street, for example. The World Health Organisation recommends keeping at least a 1.5-2 metre distance.
     
  • Avoid large gatherings, including parties, weddings, and other activities.
     
  • Work from home if you can. Employers have been asked to ensure this happens where possible.
     
  • Avoid all non-essential travel, both within and outside Sweden. That includes visits to family, planned holidays, and any other trips that can be avoided.
     
  • If you have to travel, avoid busy times such as rush hour if you can. This reduces the number of people on public transport and makes it easier for people to keep their distance.
     
  • If you are over 70 or belong to a high-risk group, you should stay at home and reduce all social contacts. Avoid going to the shops (get groceries delivered or try to find someone who can help you), but you can go outside if you keep distance from other people. Read more about the help available to those in risk groups here.
     
  • By following these precautions, we can all help to protect those who are most at risk and to reduce the rate of infection, which in turn reduces the burden on Sweden's healthcare sector.
     
  • Read more detail about the precautions we should all be taking in this paywall-free article. Advice in English is also available from Sweden's Public Health Agency and the World Health Organisation.

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