How could the relaxed lockdown affect the drive time to testing centers?

How could the relaxed lockdown affect the drive time to testing centers?

How could the relaxed lockdown affect the drive time to testing centers?

One notable thing about the affect of lockdown (aside from impact on case numbers) is how quiet the roads are. Anecdotally, the roads have been devoid of cars, and replaced by hordes of cyclists and runners. By looking at the effect on driving speeds we can theorize some of the causes. Map 1 shows the lock down in full affect, using a custom run of our average speed data, after the lockdown had taken affect in late March, to calculate the accessibility to COVID-19 testing centers across the UK, within 1 hour drive time.

Visually, the UK appears to have around 70% coverage of accessibility. With large gaps in the north of Scotland and Wales. But when including census data in the equation, the picture becomes a lot clearer.

In fact, during lockdown, 92% of the UK could access a COVID-19 testing facility within 1 hour of driving.

With less cars on the road there have been significantly less traffic jams, allowing cars to continuously travel the speed of the road. And in some cases, faster than the intended speed of the road.

After numerous weeks in this locked down state, on the 10th of May 2020 Boris Johnson announced some relaxed measures. Including the return to work for those unable to work from home, and the ability to drive to a location for exercise multiple times verses only being allowed to exercise in the vicinity of your home for 1 hour a day.

With these changes in place, it’s possible that the roads could return to their pre-lockdown state. Although there will still be significant numbers of people working from home and therefore not commuting. Those who will be travelling to work have been discouraged from using public transport, moving more people from buses and trains back onto the road.

Combining this with the increased number of cyclists on the road competing for the road space, this will inevitably mean lower speed averages.

Looking at the map visualisation, which is a comparison using data up to March 2020 (pre-lockdown) the areas of accessibility have shrunk. As well as areas becoming more orange and red indicating that though still accessible, it’ll take longer to get there.

When observing the census calculation, a reduction to 88% of the population within an hours drive time of a testing center from the 92% during lockdown. This results in over 5 million people unable to get to a drive through test center within 30 minutes.

There is also the added concern that with recent guidance to drive where possible and avoid public transport, these times could in-face be a best case scenario with increased traffic on the roads.

These calculations used Ordnance Survey (OS) highways with average speed to calculate the pre COVID-19 travel times, the averages were taken from AM peak times to include the commuter traffic. Within TRACC 6 different speed can be assigned to the roads, including bi-directionality, allowing accuracy at both a local and national scale.


Keziah is the Digital Marketing Executive at Basemap Ltd. She has almost 2 years experience in the digital realm after graduating from the University of Plymouth with a BA in Illustration and a MA in Publishing.