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Movement in the Sydney and Melbourne CBDs is still stuck below 50% of pre-pandemic levels in the run-up to Christmas

Source: Roy Morgan collaboration with Near who provide anonymous aggregated insights using mobile location data. Note: Movement data for the Capital City CBDs excludes the residents of the respective CBDs.
A special analysis of movement data in Australia’s Capital City CBDs since the COVID-19 pandemic began shows that movement levels in the Sydney and Melbourne CBDs are still stuck below 50% of pre-pandemic levels in the run-up to Christmas.

The average 7-day movement levels in both cities increased rapidly in October and early November after both cities exited long lockdowns, however the recovery in movement levels has stalled in recent weeks with neither city managing to breakthrough 50% of pre-pandemic levels.

In the Melbourne CBD the average 7-day movement level has been rangebound between 43-48% of pre-pandemic levels since mid-November and in the Sydney CBD the average 7-day movement level has been stuck between 40-46% of pre-pandemic levels.

A big reason movement levels are yet to recover is likely due to the continuing high case load of new COVID-19 cases in both cities. Since exiting lockdown in mid-October Victoria has averaged over 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day and this week daily cases in NSW jumped to over 800 as the new Omicron variant began to spread in the community.

Notably, movement levels in the Perth CBD have now jumped to 88% of pre-pandemic averages – the highest they have been since the pandemic began in mid-March 2020. The increase in movement in the Perth CBD comes as WA Premier Mark McGowan has finally announced a date for the re-opening of the State’s borders – set for the first week of February 2022.

Australian Capital City CBDs average 7-day movement levels March 1, 2020 – December 5, 2021: % Movement is compared to the 7-day average in Jan-Feb 2020

Source: Roy Morgan collaboration with Near who provide anonymous aggregated insights using mobile location data. Note: Movement data for the Capital City CBDs excludes the residents of the respective CBDs.

The latest vaccination figures from the Health Department show over 40.2 million vaccination doses have been administered to 93% of the adult population and over 89% of Australian adults are now fully vaccinated.

Vaccination rates are highest in the ACT (99%+ fully vaccinated), NSW (93%) and Victoria (91%). All three jurisdictions fully re-opened in early November.

In the three States which just re-opened, or are set to re-open, vaccination rates continue to increase led by Tasmania, now with over 90% of its adult population fully vaccinated. Tasmania is re-opening tomorrow, on Wednesday December 15. South Australia, which re-opened its borders in late November, has 85% of its adult population fully vaccinated while 81% of Queenslanders are fully vaccinated. 

Western Australia has finally announced it is set to re-open its borders on February 5, 2022 when it expects to have 90% of its population aged 12+ fully vaccinated. The latest vaccination figures for Western Australia shows 80% of the State’s adult population are now fully vaccinated.

Roy Morgan has partnered with leading technology innovator Near to aggregate data from tens of thousands of mobile devices to assess the movements of Australians as we deal with the restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The interactive dashboard available on the website tracks the movement data for those visiting the Capital City CBDs during 2020 and 2021, excluding the CBD residents of each city. Movement data from several key locations around Australia is also available to view by using the interactive dashboard.

Michele Levine, CEO of Roy Morgan, says movement levels in the Sydney and Melbourne CBDs are stuck under 50% of pre-pandemic levels as many CBD workers are set to continue working from home until at least early next year:

“The movement levels in Australia’s two largest cities increased rapidly when the two cities exited long lockdowns in mid-October, however the increases have stalled over the past few weeks as many workers continue to work from home. The average movement levels in the Melbourne CBD have been rangebound between 43-48% of pre-pandemic levels since mid-November and stuck between 40-46% of pre-pandemic levels in the Sydney CBD.

“There are a few reasons we can point to that explain why the increases in movement levels have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels. One is the continuing high level of cases in both cities. Victoria has averaged well over 1,000 cases of COVID-19 per day since exiting lockdown in mid-October while there has also been a steady stream of hundreds of new cases per day in NSW.

“In recent week the emergence of the new ‘Omicron variant’ has created new concerns for workers about returning to the office. Soon after first being identified in late November, Australia closed its borders to eight southern African countries and over the past week cases have begun to rise in NSW. Today’s announcement by NSW Health that there were over 800 new cases of COVID-19 was the highest daily total for over two months since October 2.

“Even before the emergence of the ‘Omicron variant’ many businesses had already decided to allow many workers to continue working from home for the rest of the year with new policies on returning to the office to be implemented in 2022. For workers who prefer to work from home this has allowed them to continue as they have been over the last few months with barely a change.

“The test for these cities will come in the New Year after the summer holidays conclude and many businesses will be expecting workers to return to the office in greater numbers. There is no doubt ‘flexible work’ is here to stay with employees not expected to work in the office every day of the week, but many businesses are pushing for workers to head into the office at least three days a week to help build a productive work culture and strengthen relationships between employees.”



 View the latest Roy Morgan Near movement data for Australian Capital City CBDs including the Melbourne CBD, Sydney CBD, Perth CBD, Adelaide CBD and Hobart CBD here.
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About Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate

40%-60%

25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%

1,000

±3.0

±2.7

±1.9

±1.3

5,000

±1.4

±1.2

±0.8

±0.6

7,500

±1.1

±1.0

±0.7

±0.5

10,000

±1.0

±0.9

±0.6

±0.4

20,000

±0.7

±0.6

±0.4

±0.3

50,000

±0.4

±0.4

±0.3

±0.2