Bulgarians Remain Most Mobile in Balkans amidst Strict Coronavirus Measures

Atanas Tchobanov

In the midst of severe restrictions triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the mobility of Bulgarian citizens has declined the least compared to neighboring countries, according to data released by Google.

The data is derived from geolocalization of mobile devices with the use of anonymization technology to keep activity data private and secure. They cover the period from February 16 to March 29, 2020, and are publicly available to enable governments to be informed of the realities of compliance with quarantine measures, according to Google.

Mobility is divided into several categories – Retail & Recreation or visits of shopping malls, coffee shops, restaurants, museums, cinemas and attractions; Grocery & Pharmacy or visits of grocery stores, markets and pharmacies, Parks or visits of parks, public gardens and beaches, Transit Stations, Workplaces and Residential. The data are presented as a difference in attendance rates from the period before the restrictive measures.

The discipline of Bulgarians in the categories entertainment, shopping and transport is the worst in the Balkans, and in the parks category, it is better only than in Bosnia and Herzegovina, shows a comparison of data for different countries made by Bivol. This conclusion is provisional since no data are available for Albania and Serbia at this time.

In fact, Bulgaria is much closer to the Netherlands where restrictions are more liberal. Romania is the champion by activity decline in all four categories in the Balkans. Unsurprisingly, the ranking of reduced mobility in Europe is topped by the most affected countries, Italy and Spain.

The decline in workplace visits in Bulgaria is 29%, close to Central European countries, while it is 39% in Romania, 45% in Turkey, 50% in Bosnia, 51% in Northern Macedonia and 53% in Greece.

One interpretation of these data is that strict measures to limit social and physical distance in Bulgaria are not respected. Bulgarian lawmakers also demonstrated lack of discipline with pictures showing them gathered close to each other and without observing the required distance of 1.5 meters, while standing in line to be tested for COVID-19 on April 1, 2020.

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