Mobility data show that South Africans have been travelling during the lockdown, with trips across provincial borders surging even before the relaxation of restrictions on inter-provincial travel.
Although many trips from one province to another were banned under Level 3 of the lockdown, anonymised data from vehicle recovery and fleet management company Netstar show that there were many inter-provincial trips during Level 3.
On August 18, South Africa moved into Level 2, with the economy further opening, alcohol and cigarette sales being allowed, and interprovincial movement restrictions being lifted.
The lifting of the travel ban was much anticipated, but telematic data from Netstar and its partners shows that national road travel was already well underway before Level 2. In some cases, travel between neighbouring provinces was higher under Level 3 than Level 2.
Travel between more distant provinces rose with the relaxation of travel restrictions under Level 2.
The greatest amount of outbound travel has been seen coming out of Gauteng, and this also grew with the easing to Level 2 restrictions.
Inbound travel has been highest into KwaZulu-Natal – reaching a peak on August 21. Gauteng inbound visitors were only two thirds of what KZN received on the same day. Other provinces also saw an uptick in visitors.
However, South Africans may have been anticipating the move to Level 2 after the long months of the lockdown, as stats show more movements towards the end of Level 3. The Women’s Day long weekend of 8-10 August saw a spike in interprovincial travel, despite the Level 3 lockdown restrictions. In fact, outbound travel from Gauteng was greater on August 9 (Level 3) than on August 15 on the following weekend (Level 2).
“Mobility is the lifeblood of the South African economy,” said Netstar MD Pierre Bruwer. “Our data shows interprovincial travel is picking up rapidly since we moved to Level 2. However, it seems the change was long awaited, as movement had already begun before the announcement was made.”
“Level 3 did allow for interprovincial travel for essential services and with the right paperwork,” said Bruwer. “It’s possible that the Level 3 regulations made it possible for people who really needed to travel to do so. This may be why we are not seeing such a surge.”
Netstar’s telematics are among the company’s “Internet of Things” capabilities that give useful insights into the South African economy. Netstar has been sharing stats on driver behaviour since the beginning of the South African COVID-19 lockdown.
The interprovincial travel stats were obtained by tracking vehicles and comparing the times and locations where the vehicles were turned off and on.