Empty roads and clean air: how the coronavirus quarantine impacted traffic in

Heavy vehicle traffic in Mexico City (Photo: Cuartoscuro / File)
Heavy vehicle traffic in Mexico City (Photo: Cuartoscuro / File)

The different quarantines, total or partial, imposed in Latin American countries to combat the coronavirus pandemic have had a strong impact on vehicle traffic patterns, the use of public transport, the mobility of people and air quality in the region.

This is especially true in Latin American cities famous for their huge traffic congestions, such as Mexico, San Pablo, Buenos Aires or Bogotá, to name just a few.

Based on data collected by the popular Waze navigation application, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) created a series of indicators that show how effective restrictions have been on the movement of people in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Uruguay.

When measuring traffic congestion, the data shows the collapse in movement registered by all countries as of March, when the first restrictive measures began to be taken to try to stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that generates the disease COVID-19.

The most abrupt drops, between 60% and 90%, in vehicle traffic were recorded between March 23 and April 12. Since then, and based on the progressive reopens and flexibilities carried out in the different countries, A trend of traffic growth is beginning to be noticed.

The most recent data is from May 17, when Uruguay becomes the country that has least restricted its traffic, only 30%, while El Salvador is the one that further hinders the movement of vehicles, which has decreased by 89%.

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Source: IDB
Source: IDB

Regarding the use of public transport by the population, Similar landslides have been noted beginning in mid-March and reaching its well in early April.

Unlike what happens with the increasing trend in vehicle traffic, the use of public transport has remained unchanged in his flat. Probably because the experts agree with the possibilities of contagion of coronavirus they are extremely high in the trains and buses, especially in rush hour.

Lima, in Peru, is the city that has reduced the use of public transport the most: 89% fell there. While Belo Horizonte, in Brazil, the least: it contracted 65%.

Source: IDB
Source: IDB

In between appear Mexico City (83%), San Pablo (69%), Bogotá (85%) and Buenos Aires (82%).

The study then measures the impact on people's mobility, accounting for how many individuals travel more than 1 kilometer per day in each country.

Bolivia is the country in which mobility has decreased the most in Latin America. He did it by 63%, against hima drop of 24% registered in Nicaragua, where the dictator Daniel Ortega relativized the impact of the pandemic and avoided implementing major restrictions.

In Argentina, the percentage of people who walk more than one kilometer decreased by 45%, while in Brazil it did so by only 27%, in Colombia it occurred by 47% and in Chile by 38%.

Finally, the data shows a notable change in air quality in most of the large Latin American cities, measured by the concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the atmosphere, measured by satellites.

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Among the cities with total quarantine, Bogotá, in Colombia, is the one that experienced the greatest reduction in pollution, with 83%, followed by Lima (Peru, -47%) and Buenos Aires (Argentina, -40%).

Among those that implemented only a partial quarantine, Mexico City is the one that reduced air pollution the most with a drop of 53%, followed by Rio de Janeiro (22%) and San Pablo (21%).


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Sam Conley

Sam Conley is new to online journalism but she is keen to learn. She is an MBA from a reputed university. She brings together relevant news pieces from various industries. She loves to share quick news updates. She is always in search of interesting news so that she can share them as well to Sunriseread's readers who could enjoy them with their morning coffee.

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