March 19, 2021

Movement of people in Melbourne CBD is at 39% of normal one year after the first COVID lockdown

Topic: Press Release, Special Poll
Finding No: 8667
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A special analysis of movement data in Australia’s Capital City CBDs over the past year since the COVID-19 pandemic began in mid-March 2020 shows movement levels in the Melbourne CBD continuing to lag those in other Capital City CBDs.

A special analysis of movement data in Australia’s Capital City CBDs over the past year since the COVID-19 pandemic began in mid-March 2020 shows movement levels in the Melbourne CBD continuing to lag those in other Capital City CBDs.

Movement in the Melbourne CBD during mid-March 2021 was at an average of only 39% of the pre-COVID-19 levels of movement during January and February 2020. The good news is that this level of movement on working days since the Labour Day holiday (Monday March 8, 2021) is the highest in the Melbourne CBD since mid-June 2020 just before Melbourne entered its second lockdown.

Movement levels in the Sydney CBD have tracked lower than smaller cities over the last year as the city has dealt with a series of outbreaks – although without a second city-wide lockdown – and were at 47% in mid-March. This is the highest level of movement for the Sydney CBD since mid-December 2020 when movement levels touched a high of 50% just before outbreaks of COVID-19 in Berala in Western Sydney and Avalon in Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

The Adelaide CBD has been the standout performer over the last two months with movement levels in mid-March now at 83% of the pre-COVID-19 levels and above 70% since the start of February. Movement levels in the Adelaide CBD have averaged more than 10% higher than either Brisbane CBD, Perth CBD or Hobart CBD during the last two months.

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

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

Roy Morgan has partnered with leading technology innovator UberMedia 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 tracks the movement data for those visiting the Capital City CBDs during 2020, 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 a year after the COVID-19 pandemic began and led to an Australian nation-wide lockdown in March/April 2020 movement in Australian Capital City CBDs is still well down on pre-pandemic levels:

Block Quote

“A year into the COVID-19 pandemic there are positive signs that Australians are returning to a sense of normality however the daily movement of people in Australia’s Capital City CBDs remains down on average levels prior to the pandemic.

“The requirement to work from home, which is still in operation in many parts of Australia, had the biggest impact on CBD office workers and led to huge declines in the number of people commuting to work in the CBDs over the past year.

“Hardest hit has been the Melbourne CBD which has been through three lockdowns totaling over six months duration since mid-March 2020. The long second lockdown between July-October 2020 hit the city particularly hard and even today movement in the Melbourne CBD is only at 39% of pre-COVID-19 levels – easily the lowest of any of the Capital City CBDs.

“Also struggling to regain the its pre-pandemic levels of movement is the Sydney CBD which sits at 47% in mid-March, and still below the levels of mid-December prior to the Avalon outbreak on Sydney’s Northern Beaches which sent movement plunging over the Christmas/New Year period.

“Other cities have fared better despite short and sharp lockdowns in Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane over the last few months these cities are closest to pre-pandemic levels of movement with the Adelaide CBD on 83% leading the Perth CBD (72%) and Brisbane CBD (68%).

“The emphasis of a ‘return-to-normal’ is particularly important as Australian businesses confront the end of the JobKeeper wage subsidy at the end of this month. Comparing movement levels in the Melbourne CBD (39% of pre-COVID-19 averages) to locations in suburban areas of Melbourne such as Williamstown (71%), Glen Waverley (72%) and Cheltenham (61%) also shows how CBD areas have been hit the hardest with the lockdowns and restrictions.

“The severity of the downturn impacting the Melbourne CBD and Sydney CBD because of Federal Government and State Government policies (including the ban on international travel), provides a good argument for local authorities to take to higher levels of Government to request targeted support beyond the aviation, travel and tourism sectors as presently outlined.”

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


Michele Levine – direct: 03 9224 5215 | mobile: 0411 129 093 |

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

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