South Tyneside shoppers successfully following social distancing advice, Google data reveals

South Tyneside shoppers and residents are following social distancing advice and avoiding ​shops, data from Google suggests.

Google's figures, which use location data to chart trends in people's movement, show footfall at retail and recreation establishments fell by 85% in Tyne and Wear in the six weeks to the end of March compared to two months earlier.

This was equal to the UK average, with shop visits down by 85% when compared to a previous five-week period at the start of the year.

The British Independent Retailers Association said many successful businesses were fighting for survival, predicting that consumers’ increased use of online shopping is a trend that is here to stay.

King Street, South Shields, during new government lockdown rules

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Chief executive officer Andrew Goodacre said independent shops have already had to show great resilience and flair, utilising online deliveries to stay in business.

“However, we are also seeing many more previously successful businesses closed down and fighting for survival,” he said.

“It is good to see the government initiatives that have been taken but we are concerned that the support is not reaching the retailer quick enough.”

Though there is no fixed date for when the lockdown will end and social distancing rules relaxed, Mr Goodacre said habits have already been formed and internet sales will continue to trump the High Street.

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Where once they represented 20% of all retail sales, they now make up 85% and are “unlikely to come back down very quickly after the crisis”, he added.

​Google's figures also show a 15% rise in activity in places of residence in Tyne and Wear compared to a 57% reduction in places of work, as more people work from home.

​Visits to public transport hubs were also down by 74% – but this was below the UK average of 75%.

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Stephen Powis, NHS England’s medical director, said we are “continuing to see people adhering” to government policy – particularly on public transport.

Speaking recently at a daily coronavirus press conference, he said: “The sun might be out, but that doesn’t mean you should be out. We all need to make sure we resist the temptation, whatever the weather.

“This is not the time to be complacent and to take our foot off the pedal. We need to continue to comply with the instructions because that will continue to translate into a reduction in the number of hospitalisations.”

Tyne and Wear also saw 47% less footfall at groceries and ​pharmacies, and 58% less in parks and green spaces.

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Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said using anonymous data like this from Google, “will help improve our understanding of the impact social distancing measures are having.”

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