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Special Edition >>> The Unusual Link Between the Pandemic, Economy and Lifts


Picture By: Ryunosuke Kikuno


Ever since the Coronavirus was declared to be a pandemic on the 11th of March 2020 by the World Health Organization, the world was in shambles for more than a year as lockdowns and travel restrictions became a mandatory part of curbing the spread of the virus. Travel restrictions got so harsh that in 2020 there was a 76% fall in international flights. However, data shows that during the pandemic, we even stopped moving up and down inside buildings too, and that data gives us some unexpected insight into people’s movements in big cities during the pandemic.


The story of lifts correlates closely with the story of the pandemic, and it helps us understand the stages of the pandemic in individual cities. During the lockdown we saw an exponential decrease in lift usage as the first set of lockdowns rolled in. London saw an 80% decrease of lift usage, Toronto experienced an 84% decline in lift usage and Kuala Lumpur’s lift usage declined by 64%. This gives us an understanding about how stringent lockdowns were in these cities.


Picture By: Gaurav Baya


However, looking at the progressive return of lift activity over the months following the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic gives us another useful insight as to how effectively each government handled curbing the spread of the virus. Singapore’s “Zero-Covid” strategy included having strict lockdowns and rigorous testing to trace the virus and bring the infection levels down. Their success in containing the virus can be understood through the lift data of Singapore, as by November 2020, lifts were being used as frequently as they were in February 2020 (before the first lockdowns came into effect). This is in stark contrast to European cities such as Milan or Amsterdam where Coronavirus cases were growing exponentially. The data on lift activity reflected their situation by remaining extremely low.


During the pandemic, lift usage data also indicated which buildings were most utilised as well. The lift uses of hotels, shops and offices experienced a steep decrease whereas in hospitals it stayed constant. In the middle of 2021, when the vaccination drive was at its full force and governments began to ease restrictions, lift usage started skyrocketing. Lift journeys in offices increased by 126% in Amsterdam, 134% in London, and 301% in Chicago!


Correlation does not always lead to causation, but it’s interesting to see how in this case, even through something as subtle and simple as lift usage data, we can unravel the entire story of the past year. This just goes to show how important and useful any form of data can be when used correctly, because as Jim Bergeson once said, “Data will talk if you’re willing to listen”.


December 08th 2021 | 8:20 PM

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