It was a long weekend in Italy, not relaxing at all. The first after the discovery of the first Coronavirus focus in Italy, our country.

These days, the number of infected people has increased rapidly. Among the population, it has started an almost obsessive need to read the latest news as soon as possible: in order to get updates on the number of people with a positive test result for the virus, on their location, on any deaths, on the reconstruction of the transmission of the Covid-19. The authorities also reacted by issuing instructions in order to reduce its spread.

The alarming atmosphere has led a large part of the population to adopt instinctive behaviors, aimed at dealing with the emergency. For example, there are those who have chosen to refrain from going shopping at the Mall on the weekend, to avoid increasing the probability of contagion by staying in crowded places. Other people, because of the issuing of ordinances to limit the spread of the virus, stormed hypermarkets and supermarkets to stock up on basic necessities, fearing the stores to close shortly thereafter, to find the shelves emptied by those who reached them faster, to have to isolate themselves in quarantine without having the necessary goods.

In addition to the media, to the reports from individuals and to what we have perceived, these behaviors have also been detected by the people counters. We find the proofs in the data.

For example, let us consider the total amount of people who entered shopping centers with Microlog plants and located in Lombardy, the most affected italian region at the moment. Looking at the graph of the comparison between the daily number of people who entered the malls on February 2020 (in light blue) and those on February 2019 (in dark blue), aligned for the same days of the week, it is impossible not to notice the sharp drop recorded for the last weekend, both compared to the immediately preceding weekend, both with respect to the corresponding weekend of 2019.

Malls Lombardy feb 2020 (light blue) vs feb 2019 (dark blue)

In numbers, the weekend of 22-23 February 2020 registered a -20.0% of people who entered, if compared to the previous weekend (15-16 February 2020) and a -22.1% if compared to the same weekend of the previous year (23-24 February 2019), which however had produced a +2.6% in comparison to the previous weekend (16-17 February 2019).

The graph similar to the previous one, but for the Emilia Romagna region, shows a completely different situation: a drop on Saturday, followed by significant increases for Sunday and Monday.

Malls Emilia Romagna feb 2020 (light blue) vs feb 2019 (dark blue)

But why? It is quite easy to say: at 17:00 on Sunday 23 February, a regional ordinance stated the suspension of educational activities (in schools of all levels) and other forms of aggregation in general, until 1 March 2020. The following graph shows the total amount of people who entered a sample of shopping centers located in the region, in detail of 5 minutes and detected from 14:00 to 21:00 on Sunday 23 February 2020 (in light blue) and on Sunday 24 February 2019 (in dark blue). Starting from around 17:30, the data about 2020 recorded a significant increase if compared to 2019, in support of the perception of a race to stock up on basic necessities, immediately following the measures adopted to counteract the spread of Coronavirus.

Malls Emilia Romagna sun 23.02.2020 (light blue) vs sun 24.02.2019 (dark blue)

Thus, from 17:00 to 21:00 on Sunday 23 February 2020, the number of people who entered the Malls of the sample considered, those with Microlog systems implemented, recorded a +16.5% in comparison to those counted for the same time slot of the homologous Sunday of the previous year.

This phenomenon seems to have continued for almost all day during Monday 24 February 2020 (+20.2% compared to Monday 25 February 2019) and especially during the morning, a few hours after the ordinance was released. It is also shown in the hourly detail of the following graph.

Malls Emilia Romagna mon 24.02.2020 (light blue) vs mon 25.02.2019 (dark blue)

The early hours of Tuesday, on the other hand, recorded a drop in the number of people who entered the Malls, if compared to the same day of the previous year.

The above are just some examples of how a correctly installed and calibrated people counter tool can work. On a statistical basis, a people counting system can detect the behaviors of those who enter or leave places where a public of some kind is involved. In the cases examined on this post, the causes were known (and, we add, the causes were unfortunately not pleasant at all). Under standard conditions, using data to detect unexpected behavior could lead to discovering unsuspected causes, with the consequent possibility of being able to make strategic data-driven decisions.

In Microlog we look forward a return to normality: for curves about footfall, but especially for the health situation.

See you at the next post!