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No sweeping return to the office yet – but there are signs life is returning to normal

Movement to and from work remains 24pc lower compared with pre-pandemic levels

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People board the Luas at the Smithfield stop in Dublins city centre as return to the workplace begins after Covid-19 pandemic restrictions are lifted. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photo

People board the Luas at the Smithfield stop in Dublins city centre as return to the workplace begins after Covid-19 pandemic restrictions are lifted. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photo

People board the Luas at the Smithfield stop in Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

People board the Luas at the Smithfield stop in Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

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People board the Luas at the Smithfield stop in Dublins city centre as return to the workplace begins after Covid-19 pandemic restrictions are lifted. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photo

IRISH workers have not begun to return to offices and workplaces yet, data from Google and Apple shows.

This is despite an easing of restrictions introduced recently.

Movement to and from traditional work buildings remains 24pc lower across the country compared with pre-pandemic levels, according to smartphone data tracked by the tech giants.

The absence from workplaces continues to affect public transport, which remains 38pc less used than two years ago.

Restaurants and cafes have not returned to full strength either, with attendance down 8pc on pre-Covid times.

Dublin and commuter counties remain most affected by ‘work from home’ employment policies, with Dublin still down 43pc on pre-pandemic office attendance. Kildare and Wicklow are both down 26pc, with Meath down 23pc.

Google’s figures confirm that more people are remaining at home for longer in Dublin than anywhere else in the country, because of ongoing office attendance curtailment.

However, there are other signs that society is returning to busier levels of physical activity. Supermarket and pharmacy visits are up 11pc, while traffic is up 15pc.

Ireland’s pandemic conversion to sea-swimming and other outdoor recreation is reflected in a 35pc rise in visits to beaches, marinas and public parks. This is highest in urbanised coastal counties such as Waterford (up 64pc), Cork (up 58pc) and Wicklow (up 46pc).

The movement data is anonymously collected from hundreds of thousands of Irish smartphones.

According to Apple, driving, walking and general ‘transit’ activity are all above pre-pandemic levels, although driving levels are not at the peak reached during some periods of the pandemic.

This compares with overall activity decreasing by up to 80pc during the worst periods of Ireland’s lockdowns.

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In Dublin, motor traffic is up 10pc on its pre-pandemic level but has not increased in activity as much as countries such as Waterford (up 40pc), Meath (up 34pc) or Wexford (up 31pc).

The only county in Ireland to record a decline in driving activity is Mayo (down 13pc), according to Apple’s data.

In counties where workers rely more on cars and less on offices, workplace attendance remains unaffected by the pandemic.

In Longford and Mayo, it is down just 4pc on pre-pandemic activity, while workplace attendance in Monaghan has fallen by just 5pc and Wexford is down only 6pc.

The figures come one week after the Government removed most remaining Covid restrictions, including rules around office attendance, large events and Covid passes.

The only significant remaining restrictions concern international travel and a requirement to wear masks on public transport and in retail environments. However, mask requirements look likely to be removed on February 28, as will remaining protective measures in schools and childcare facilities.

People who are travelling out of the country will still have to produce EU Digital Covid Certificates and fill in passenger locator forms upon entry into Ireland.

Meanwhile, the current public health guidance on close contacts, people with symptoms, and those who test positive for Covid-19 is due to be reviewed at the end of February. 


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