Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Background: Since early March 2020, the COVID-19 epidemic across the United Kingdom has led to a range of social distancing policies, which have resulted in reduced mobility across different regions. Crowd level data on mobile phone usage can be used as a proxy for actual population mobility patterns and provide a way of quantifying the impact of social distancing measures on changes in mobility. Methods: Here, we use two mobile phone-based datasets (anonymised and aggregated crowd level data from O2 and from the Facebook app on mobile phones) to assess changes in average mobility, both overall and broken down into high and low population density areas, and changes in the distribution of journey lengths. Results: We show that there was a substantial overall reduction in mobility, with the most rapid decline on the 24th March 2020, the day after the Prime Minister's announcement of an enforced lockdown. The reduction in mobility was highly synchronized across the UK. Although mobility has remained low since 26th March 2020, we detect a gradual increase since that time. We also show that the two different datasets produce similar trends, albeit with some location-specific differences. We see slightly larger reductions in average mobility in high-density areas than in low-density areas, with greater variation in mobility in the high-density areas: some high-density areas eliminated almost all mobility. Conclusions: These analyses form a baseline from which to observe changes in behaviour in the UK as social distancing is eased and inform policy towards the future control of SARS-CoV-2 in the UK.

Original publication




Journal article


Wellcome open research

Publication Date





MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, Abdul Latif Jameel Institute for Disease and Emergency Analytics (J-IDEA),, Imperial College London, London, UK.