The effect of different COVID-19 public health restrictions on mobility: A systematic review: A systematic review

Mark A. Tully, Laura McMaw, Deepti Adlakha, Neale Blair, Jonny McAneney, Helen McAneney, Christina Carmichael, Conor Cunningham, Nicola C. Armstrong, Lee Smith, Sanjay Kumar Singh Patel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)


Background In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, most countries have introduced non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as stay-at-home orders, to reduce person-to-person contact and break trains of transmission. The aim of this systematic review was to assess the effect of different public health restrictions on mobility across different countries and cultures. The University of Bern COVID-19 Living Evidence database of COVID-19 and SARS-COV-2 publications was searched for retrospective or prospective studies evaluating the impact of COVID-19 public health restrictions on Google Mobility. Titles and abstracts were independently screened by two authors. Information from included studies was extracted by one researcher and double checked by another. Risk of bias of included articles was assessed using the Newcastle Ottowa Scale. Given the heterogeneous nature of the designs used, a narrative synthesis was undertaken. From the search, 1672 references were identified, of which 14 were included in the narrative synthesis. All studies reported data from the first wave of the pandemic, with Google Mobility Scores included from January to August 2020, with most studies analysing data during the first two months of the pandemic. Seven studies were assessed as having a moderate risk of bias and seven as a low risk of bias. Countries that introduced more stringent public health restrictions experienced greater reductions in mobility, through increased time at home and reductions in visits to shops, workplaces and use of public transport. Stay-at-home orders were the most effective of the individual strategies, whereas mask mandates had little effect of mobility. Conclusions Public health restrictions, particularly stay-at-home orders have significantly impacted on transmission prevention behaviours. Further research is required to understand how to effectively address pandemic fatigue and to support the safe return back to normal day-to-day behaviours.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0260919
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Early online date8 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished online - 8 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Tully et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Databases, Factual
  • Humans
  • Movement
  • Pandemics
  • Public Health
  • SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification


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