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Mobility Reductions Helped Minimize Covid-19 Spread In Latin American Neighborhoods

girl and woman looking out the window of a subway

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, September 22, 2021


A recent study published in The Lancet Digital Health showed an association between reductions in movement during the pandemic and COVID-19 incidence among residents of different neighborhoods.

According to the publication, a 10% reduction in mobility (measured using cell phone movement data) within 1,031 sub-sections of 314 Latin American cities was associated with an 8.6% lower incidence of new COVID-19 cases during the following week.

“We found that within these cities, municipalities that were able to reduce their movement experienced a lower burden of COVID-19 cases. This finding may be useful to decisionmakers who are considering movement restrictions as a strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19” says Josiah Kephart, lead author of the study.

This research was implemented by members of the Salud Urbana en América Latina (SALURBAL) Project, who analyzed data from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico from March 2 to August 29, 2020.

“Vaccination and indoor masking are critical tools to control COVID-19, but these results show that targeted strategies that promote staying at home and reductions in mobility can be useful to reduce incidence in situations of high community transmission, especially in situations when vaccination rates are still low.” says Ana Diez Roux, the Principal Investigator of the SALURBAL project.

These results highlight how population mobility reductions have contributed to the mitigation of COVID-19. Nevertheless, according to the authors, these restrictions should be combined with other strategies that prevent or reduce any adverse social and economic consequences for the most vulnerable groups.

Urban Health in Latin America (SALURBAL) is a research project that studies how urban policies and city environments affect the health of Latin Americans. The results of this project will serve as a reference to inform future policies and interventions to make cities healthier, more equitable and environmentally sustainable throughout the world. SALURBAL is funded by the Wellcome Trust.

For more information contact Andrea Bolinaga at