National movement patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand: The unexplored role of neighbourhood deprivation

Type of content
Journal Article
Thesis discipline
Degree name
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Sabel CE
McCarthy J
Campbell, Malcolm
Marek, Lukas
Wiki, Jesse
Hobbs, Matthew
Kingham, Simon

The COVID-19 pandemic has asked unprecedented questions of governments around the world. Policy responses have disrupted usual patterns of movement in society, locally and globally, with resultant impacts on national economies and human well-being. These interventions have primarily centred on enforcing lockdowns and introducing social distancing recommendations, leading to questions of trust and competency around the role of institutions and the administrative apparatus of state. This study demonstrates the unequal societal impacts in population movement during a national ‘lockdown’. We use nationwide mobile phone movement data to quantify the effect of an enforced lockdown on population mobility by neighbourhood deprivation using an ecological study design. We then derive a mobility index using anonymised aggregated population counts for each neighbourhood (2253 Census Statistical Areas; mean population n=2086) of national hourly mobile phone location data (7.45 million records, 1 March 2020–20 July 2020) for New Zealand (NZ). Curtailing movement has highlighted and exacerbated underlying social and spatial inequalities. Our analysis reveals the unequal movements during ‘lockdown’ by neighbourhood socioeconomic status in NZ. In understanding inequalities in neighbourhood movements, we are contributing critical new evidence to the policy debate about the impact(s) and efficacy of national, regional or local lockdowns which have sparked such controversy.

Campbell M, Marek L, Wiki J, Hobbs M, Sabel CE, McCarthy J, Kingham S (2021). National movement patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand: The unexplored role of neighbourhood deprivation. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 75(9). 903-905.
Humans, Communicable Disease Control, New Zealand, Pandemics, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2
Ngā upoko tukutuku/Māori subject headings
ANZSRC fields of research
1117 Public Health and Health Services
1604 Human Geography
Fields of Research::44 - Human society::4406 - Human geography::440603 - Economic geography
Fields of Research::44 - Human society::4406 - Human geography::440611 - Transport geography
Fields of Research::42 - Health sciences::4206 - Public health::420602 - Health equity
Fields of Research::42 - Health sciences::4202 - Epidemiology::420210 - Social epidemiology
© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2021. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.