The current impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in Qatar can be felt by all of us. With travel bans, social gatherings prohibited, and many individuals quarantined - the changes to normal life are considerable.
In line with this, the Qatar Mobility Innovations Center (QMIC) launched its COVID-19 Mobility Analytics report which provides insight into movement and mobility behavior in Qatar since the beginning of the pandemic till the first week of May 2020. The report is based on the unique and rich traffic data bank produced by QMIC’s Advanced Traffic Monitoring & Analytics Platform (MasarakTM) which collects data on a daily basis about mobility behavior in Qatar.
QMIC plans to update its mobility report on a weekly basis starting on the 2nd half of May in order to track weekly trends and changes in mobility behavior. It's worth noting that QMIC is the first independent innovation center in the region with a focus on developing and deploying smart mobility systems and services.
Read on further below to discover the impact of COVID-19 on mobility behavior in Qatar.
Qatar reported the first case of the novel coronavirus on 29 February 2020. Since then, restrictions on movement were implemented gradually. For example, nationwide closure of schools came into effect on March 10 and the ban on serving food in restaurants and cafes, allowing only delivery services and takeaway was implemented on March 15.
Implementing strict measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 has led to a noticeable reduction in congestion. QMIC's index shows congestion severity was 1.8% in the first week of March and 11.6% in the second week of the same month.
Weekly congestion level dropped significantly by 55-66% since late March, with the biggest drop of 66% noticed in the first week of May.
Another consequence of confinement is a significant reduction in city outdoor activity. Weekly outdoor mobility activity dropped by about 45% in late March to late April, however, the level of activity increased towards the end of April and in early May during Ramadan.
The weekly number of car trips dropped by about 50% in late March to mid-April, however, the level of activity increased in late April and early May which coincides with Ramadan.
Since 9 March 2020, entry to Qatar had temporarily suspended for all those intending to travel from certain countries. The Hamad International Airport (HIA) now remains open on a scaled-down basis. Currently, entry to Qatar is only permitted to Qatari nationals and holders of a permanent residence permit. Departing and transit passengers with onward connections are also allowed at HIA provided their destination country does not have any travel restrictions.
All these measures led to a dramatic decrease in air traffic as weekly trip activities to/from Hamad International Airport started to drop noticeably since early March reaching a steady weekly reduction of 80% since early April, as per the QMIC report.
Close contact between people and a high level of mobility tend to turn cities into the hotspots of outbreaks and gateways for the disease. Limiting outdoor movements means limiting your chance of exposure and hence infection with the virus. As we can see in QIMC's report that mobility has decreased recently - meaning many people are respecting government regulations to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
On a more positive note of all these restrictions is that carbon emissions are falling down. Qatar has witnessed a substantial improvement in air quality amid social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the scientist at the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI), Doha has observed a 30% decrease in PM2.5 concentrations, which can be directly attributed to social distancing policies. Similarly, Qatar observed decreases of 9% and 18% respectively in ozone and nitrogen dioxide concentrations.
Prevention through home confinement as well as social distancing strategy is currently the key that has led to a considerable change in mobility behavior in Qatar and thus providing greater control over the outbreak. Qatar is, therefore, one of the two nations that stand out with the lowest fatality rates among countries experiencing major outbreaks.
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