Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Chart of the Day
16 December 2021

As Omicron spreads, Britons shun public transport

Mobility data shows public transport use has plummeted as a voluntary lockdown unfolds.

By Ben van der Merwe

As the highly transmissible Omicron variant tears through the UK, data provided by Apple shows that the public are beginning to once again avoid public transport.

By Thursday 9 December, Apple’s index measuring activity at transit stations in England was already 4.8 per cent below the average for the previous four Thursdays. By Tuesday 14 December, it was down by 9.4 per cent. Nottingham has seen the largest decrease in recent days. Between 9 and 14 December transit station activity plummeted from 3.2 per cent below recent levels to 30 per cent below.


At a press conference on 15 December, the UK’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty called on the public to reduce their social interactions. “What most people are doing, and what seems very sensible, is prioritising the social interactions that matter to them, and to protect those ones deprioritising interactions that matter less to them.”

Nikki Kanani, the medical director of primary care for NHS England, reiterated the point: “I want to see my immediate family on Christmas day, so I’m going to be really, really careful until I get to that moment. Not just testing, but watching what I do.”

Jenny Harries, the head of the Health Security Agency, had told Britons to reduce their social interactions as early as 30 November, but her message was not reiterated by the Prime Minister. Boris Johnson said at the time that there would be no further change in advice “about how people should be living their lives”.

The public has often been faster in reacting to the spread of Covid-19 than government guidance. One study looking at Europe, North America and Israel estimated that half of the total reduction in transmissibility during the first wave of Covid-19 occurred prior to government-mandated lockdowns.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
What you need to know about private markets
Work isn't working: how to boost the nation's health and happiness
The dementia crisis: a call for action