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Coronavirus: Northern Ireland travelling more than any other UK region or Republic, data suggests

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The M2 in Belfast on April 22

The M2 in Belfast on April 22

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

The M2 in Belfast on April 22

Traffic in Northern Ireland has not dropped as much as in other parts of the UK or the Republic of Ireland during the coronavirus pandemic, new data suggests.

Data from tech giant Apple detailing the mobility levels of Apple Maps users shows that traffic levels in Northern Ireland last week were 47% of the levels seen in the week beginning Sunday, January 19.

This is compared with less than 40% in England and less than 30% in the Republic.

In Europe, traffic levels in Spain are only 24% of those seen in January.

Since lockdown was put into force in March, the public has been urged to stay at home and only travel for essential purposes, such as to buy food or attend a medical appointment.

Apple data suggests people may be relaxing their travel habits as the weeks of lockdown go on.

Traffic levels have increased 10.2% in Northern Ireland compared to the peak of the lockdown at the end of March, while traffic and England and the Republic of Ireland has increased by 8.7% and 7% over the same period, respectively.

Two weeks ago, the Department for Infrastructure said it was continuing to closely monitor the volume of traffic, following reports of scores of people making unnecessary journeys and pictures circulating of cars parked outside country parks - despite them only being reopened for pedestrians.

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M2 on March 30

M2 on March 30

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

M2 on March 30

It said that since lockdown on March 23, on average there has been a reduction in traffic flows by about 62% from Monday to Friday and by about 70% at weekends compared to the same period in previous years.

At the beginning of April Google data suggested a significant drop in activity across Northern Ireland.

Some areas, such as on public transport, shopping and at workplaces had seen a near total drop off in activity.

The Executive is set to discuss a “phased” pathway out of the lockdown, which deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill stressed will be “criteria-led”, not “calendar-led”.

Last week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar set out a five-stage plan for easing the lockdown in the Republic. Under the plan, from June 8 people will be able to travel up to 20km, however non-essential journeys will still be advised against.

This restriction will remain in place until July 20, when people will be permitted to travel as they please.

Belfast Telegraph