A nationwide stay-at-home order to curb the spread of COVID-19 has significantly reduced traffic congestion and saved people hundreds of dollars on everyday expenses.
Worldwide border closures also have the potential to halve domestic aviation emissions, new analysis has shown.
The benefits of locking down the country have been so great that experts want more people to brave the new work-from-home world even after the coronavirus outbreak has been contained.
With about a quarter of Australia’s workforce working from home due to the coronavirus, pedestrian traffic in Melbourne’s CBD has plummeted by almost 90 per cent, according to data collected by the Australian Road Research Board.
The Monash Freeway has shown a similar reduction in congestion at weekday peak periods, caused by just 28 per cent (or 20,000) fewer vehicles using the highway.
To keep Victoria’s roads operating efficiently, people who can work from home should continue to do so – at the very least on one or two days a week – once the virus is contained, ARRB concluded.
“The COVID-19 shutdown offers a critical opportunity for Victoria to understand and deal with its transport issues before life eventually returns to normal,” ARRB chief executive Michael Caltabiano said.
“We need to take this opportunity to reimagine now what a post-COVID-19 back-to-work should look like,” Mr Caltabiano said.
“Can we reimagine the work people do?
“There is also now an opportunity to better understand the choices people make.”
Australians are also spending significantly less of their discretionary income on day-to-day expenses, including petrol, parking, public transport and lunches.
Financial adviser Glen James surveyed almost 1200 millennials on their experiences of working from home and found 69 per cent were saving $50-$150 a week.
He said the results suggested Australians should reassess their personal budgets and consider changing their habits to put more money towards personal financial goals.
“It is about being agile with our personal spending,” Mr James said.
“What habits can you make now to determine what’s a luxury or a necessity and making changes that better help you when we come out of this.”
Restrictions on global travel are not only curbing the spread of the virus but also are reducing carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.
A new report by think-tank the Australia Institute found international travel emissions dropped by about 10.3 megatonnes from February to March.
That’s a 4.3 per cent decrease compared to February last year and 10 per cent lower in the first part of March compared to the same period in 2019.
International Air Transport Association has projected a 38 per cent cut to air travel in 2020 which equates to a 352.7 Mt fall in global civil aviation emissions compared to last year.
Locally, if most Qantas and Virgin planes are grounded for nine months emissions could decrease by up to 13.2 Mt or 56 per cent compared to 2019.
The Australia Institute’s Richie Merzian says it remains to be seen if COVID-19 will permanently change flying habits.
“With the travel and quarantine restrictions in place, there has been an increased demand for alternative solutions – services like teleconferencing system Zoom recorded more active users in the first two months of 2020 than in all of 2019,” he said.
“If we can work well together online now, perhaps it will permanently reduce the need for business travel and so emissions over the long term.”