Shops are shunned but people still flocking to South Yorkshire parks and green spaces

South Yorkshire residents have continued to successfully shun most shops under lockdown, Google data shows – but are still lingering in parks and green spaces.

Monday, 27th April 2020, 8:38 am

The latest weekly Google report shows a second successive rise in shopping visits across the UK, after First Secretary Dominic Raab warned any change to social distancing rules would risk a second peak of the coronavirus.

The tech giant uses location data from phones and other personal devices to track trends in people's movement in the home, retail and recreation establishments, grocery stores and pharmacies, public transport hubs, and parks and green spaces.

The third of its reports, which charts the six weeks up to April 11, shows retail in South Yorkshire has seen the biggest drop-off in activity across the five non-residential categories – 81% below normal levels.

Norfolk Park, with Sheffield City Centre as a backdrop, as the Coronavirus outbreak continues. Picture by Simon Hulme
Norfolk Park, with Sheffield City Centre as a backdrop, as the Coronavirus outbreak continues. Picture by Simon Hulme

This means the area has seen a similar drop in footfall to the UK average.

But when it comes to parks and green spaces, footfall in South Yorkshire has now only fallen by 27%.

That was compared to 22% below usual levels the previous week, following an initial drop of 47%.

All three reports are compared against a five-week period between January 3 and February 6, to establish a normal baseline.

However, with people allowed out to exercise once a day, the Communities Secretary has urged local authorities not to close parks, after some councils moved to shut their gates due to the congregation of large groups of people.

Speaking at a daily press conference from Number 10, Robert Jenrick said: "While the virus does not discriminate, we know that the lockdown is much harder for people who don’t have a lot of living space, who don’t have a garden, and who don’t have anywhere for their children to run around.

"That’s why I have made it clear to councils that all parks must remain open.

"For the health of the nation, people should be able to safely enjoy fresh air and green space."

Dominic Raab, continuing to stand in for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said the UK has not reduced the rate of infection of Covid-19 enough to allow strict measures to be lifted.

He said: "The very clear advice we have received is that any change to our social distancing measures now would risk a significant increase in the spread of the virus.

"That would threaten a second peak of the virus, and substantially increase the number of deaths. It would undo the progress made to date, and as a result, would require an even longer period of the more restrictive social distancing measures."

Mr Raab said there was "light at the end of the tunnel" but right now we are at a "delicate and dangerous stage of this pandemic" and urged UK citizens to be patient a while longer.

The full results for South Yorkshire are:

Trips to retail and recreation establishments had been 83% below normal, but have since increased to 81%

Footfall in grocery stores and pharmacies had been 38% below normal, but have since increased to 29%

Workplaces had seen a 51% drop, and have since further decreased to 55%

Visits to parks and green spaces had been 22% below average, and are now 27% below

Visits to public transport stations had been 66% below average, and have remained the same-

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