Introducing: International Social Distancing Data

Introducing: International Social Distancing Data

Up to now our coverage has mainly focused on the evolving pandemic situation in the US — but we see the need and demand for understanding movement behaviors within and across other countries. Moreover, as one of the few location data companies with global coverage, we have the opportunity to make a difference beyond our borders. That’s why, due to popular demand, we’ve expanded our Social Distancing scoring data internationally.

What’s Different in the International Set

Two Metrics for Scoring

Whereas the US overall score was the average of three metrics, scores for the International set comprise an average of two of those metrics:

  • Change in Average Distance Traveled (Metric 1 details can be found here)
  • Change in Probability of Human Encounters (Metric 3 details are here)

Change in Non-Essential Visits (Metric 2 in the US set) was not included in this schema since high-quality, up-to-date venue maps are not available for most countries. Since data accuracy is more critical than ever in the age of COVID-19, we made the decision to work without this metric for non-US countries. (That said, we could derive this metric if any partner or user would like to discuss bringing their own points of interest to our map layer.)

An Adjusted Baseline Period

COVID-19 reached different parts of the world at different times, of course. For our International Social Distancing set, we adjusted our baseline “pre-outbreak” period to a 17-day stretch between February 26 to March 13 (the US data set’s baseline ends March 8). In the vast majority of cases, while people might have begun changing their behaviors during this time period, it gives us a fairly sufficient measure of those behaviors during the early periods of awareness and before the virus reached full impact. 

Meaningful Insights Across the Globe

Our international coverage is quite vast and for a sizable number of countries, we have high-quality data that provides meaningful insights. For example, we observed the following:

Differences Across Continents 

To see how countries on various continents are reacting to COVID-19, we carefully selected countries that applied different social distancing recommendations and policies: 

Zooming In on Mexico City

With a population of approximately 9 million people and density of 16,000 people per square mile, Mexico City is North America’s largest city — and considered to be a high risk area with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  • Unreported Employment Directly Affects Social Distancing. Our data does not show a significant dedication to social distancing; Mexico City has a D- grade based on our metrics. We conclude that, with 60% of the worker population working informally — and are therefore not protected by employment law or public safety nets — many Mexicans simply don’t have the option to practice social distancing during these uncertain times.
  • Large Music Festival Held on March 14 & 15. The “Vive Latino” music festival was held according to the schedule with 140,000 visitors across the two days, which is visible on our Change in encounter and Change in travel graphs for the days in question.
  • Hesitancy to Implement Strict Guidelines. Prior to April 21, schools and most non-essential businesses were open (with the exception of bars and nightclubs), and social distancing guidelines were loosely limited to large public events.

All in all, Mexico City’s COVID-19-driven changes in behavior were relatively mild compared to other countries. This could be contributing to the latest case reports showing infections in Mexico are on the rise.

Where Quality Data is Available

Similar insights can be derived from many other countries in our International Social Distancing set. Please see below for a map of the country coverage as of April 29:


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We are continuously refining and upgrading our coverage, so we expect that more of this map will fill in as high-quality data becomes available in more and more places.

How to Access the Data

For both our Social Distancing data set and our Retail Impact data set, we offer a variety of convenient delivery options depending on the needs of your organization:

  • CSV Flat File: one-time or regularly-scheduled delivery in an import-friendly format
  • Data Feed: weekly updates imported directly via the Unacast API
  • Reports: visualizations and insights in a PDF file similar to those in our Report Studio
  • Dashboards: use our Tableau dashboards or whitelabel them for your organization
  • Marketplaces: Access Social Distancing data in comprehensive tools like ESRI

Parting Thoughts

COVID-19 doesn’t recognize or account for human constructs like language, culture, or international boundaries — in other words, we’re all in this together. As good global citizens, our hope is that health experts, public policy-makers, and community leaders harness our insights to bring the pandemic to a safe end.

Please book a meeting with one of our experts for an in-depth look at your countries of interest, or discuss how Unacast can deliver data that helps your community.


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