Lockdown related travel behavior undermines the containment of SARS-CoV-2

Nishant Kishore, Rebecca Kahn, Pamela P. Martinez, Pablo M. De Salazar, Ayesha S. Mahmud, Caroline O. Buckee

Research output: Working paper


In response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, unprecedented policies of travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders were enacted around the world. Ultimately, the public’s response to announcements of lockdowns - defined here as restrictions on both local movement or long distance travel - will determine how effective these kinds of interventions are. Here, we measure the impact of the announcement and implementation of lockdowns on human mobility patterns by analyzing aggregated mobility data from mobile phones. We find that following the announcement of lockdowns, both local and long distance movement increased. To examine how these behavioral responses to lockdown policies may contribute to epidemic spread, we developed a simple agent-based spatial model. We find that travel surges following announcements of lockdowns can increase seeding of the epidemic in rural areas, undermining the goal of the lockdown of preventing disease spread. Appropriate messaging surrounding the announcement of lockdowns and measures to decrease unnecessary travel are important for preventing these unintended consequences of lockdowns.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.Funding StatementCB was supported by Schmidt Futures and Crisis Ready.Author DeclarationsI confirm all relevant ethical guidelines have been followed, and any necessary IRB and/or ethics committee approvals have been obtained.YesThe details of the IRB/oversight body that provided approval or exemption for the research described are given below:Not Human Subjects ResearchAll necessary patient/participant consent has been obtained and the appropriate institutional forms have been archived.YesI understand that all clinical trials and any other prospective interventional studies must be registered with an ICMJE-approved registry, such as ClinicalTrials.gov. I confirm that any such study reported in the manuscript has been registered and the trial registration ID is provided (note: if posting a prospective study registered retrospectively, please provide a statement in the trial ID field explaining why the study was not registered in advance).YesI have followed all appropriate research reporting guidelines and uploaded the relevant EQUATOR Network research reporting checklist(s) and other pertinent material as supplementary files, if applicable.YesCode is available on github. Due to the Data Sharing Agreement with Facebook, readers can not access the original Facebook data used in this study. https://github.com/nish-kishore/COVID-travel
Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherCold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
Number of pages23
StateIn preparation - Oct 26 2020

Publication series

PublisherCold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press


  • Coronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)
  • 2019-nCoV
  • Novel coronavirus
  • Pandemic


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