Exploring the short term effects of the UK lockdown

Posted on: 08/04/2020
From our air quality to transport and energy systems, KTN has been looking at the immediate effects of the UK lockdown in response to COVID-19.

With aircraft grounded, motorways empty, public spaces deserted, and pubs, restaurants and other businesses closed, life as we know it has changed dramatically. It’s been a few weeks since the historic lockdown measures were introduced by the British Government, KTN has been examining the short-term effects of COVID-19 – the jury is still out on the long-term implications. From the impact on the physical environment to our transport networks and energy systems, no sector is immune to the effects this global pandemic is having.


With the Government’s emergency lockdown measures in force, which prohibits all but essential travel, the Department for Transport has been monitoring compliance of the new rules.

“Transport use is down by more than 60% for all transport types compared to early February” says DfT.

According to data analytics provider Cirium, there are now more aircraft on the ground, than in the air. 55% of the world’s commercial fleet has been grounded in response to the pandemic. At Gatwick, all BA flights have been suspended, City Airport is closed until at least May and Heathrow is down to a single runway.


National Grid says daily demand is down around 10%, largely owing to big industrial consumers using less power. This presents a number of new challenges for National Grid, such as keeping the frequency and voltage of electricity at safe levels, and to manage the levels of inertia – an invisible force which acts as the system’s ‘shock absorber’, slowing down any sudden changes and keeping the system stable.


What is all of this doing to our air? The European Space Agency (ESA) says new data based on observations from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite shows a significant reduction in levels of nitrogen dioxide over several major European cities including Paris, Madrid and Rome. Scientists from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute are now monitoring atmospheric data for Northwest Europe, including the UK.


Like most commodities, oil price fluctuation is driven by supply and demand in the market. With the slowdown in global economic activity, a worldwide decline in travel and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, oil prices fell sharply last month. The price of a barrel of Brent Crude has fallen from $52 per barrel to just $25. It means some petrol stations in the UK are already selling a litre of unleaded for under £1, for the first time since 2016.

Food and Waste

We’ve all seen the empty supermarket shelves and thankfully the panic buying seems to have slowed down as retailers impose purchasing restrictions and cut opening hours. The British Retail Consortium estimate that consumers purchased an additional £1bn of food over a 3-week period in March, much of it sadly thought to be wasted. Retailers, logistics firms, manufacturers and other businesses in the food supply chain have gone into overdrive creating a bullwhip effect from the huge surge in demand.

Waste and Bioenergy consultants, Tolvik, says COVID-19 is already having a big impact on the UK’s waste sector. The fall in residual commercial and industrial waste in the immediate short term is estimated to be just under 50%. With a quarter more meals being consumed at home, an increased focus on activities such as DIY, gardening and decluttering, they estimate household waste generation is expected to rise by around 13%.

With almost all recycling centres closed, a number of local authorities are reporting that employee absences are impacting their ability to collect some waste streams – particularly dry recyclables, bulky waste and garden waste – and that service changes will be made.


Openreach has revealed that daily UK data consumption on their national data and broadband network has surged since the lockdown began, jumping from 28PB (PetaBytes) on Monday 2nd March to 51PB on Monday 30th March.

There’s been a spike in demand of video conferencing apps. App tracking firm Apptopia, said Zoom was downloaded 2.13m times around the world on 23 March, the day the lockdown was announced in the UK – up from 56,000 a day two months earlier.

According to The Guardian“some investors got so excited, they accidentally invested in the wrong Zoom. Shares in Zoom Technologies soared by more than 1,500% as investors rushed to buy shares in what they thought was the video app company – but was actually a defunct Chinese wireless communications company.”

KTN is alive both to the real consequences the virus is having to people’s lives, their loved ones and livelihoods, as well as the severe impacts to our economy and supply chains. KTN is working flat out to pivot and adapt as many other businesses have done. We have mobilised teams to identify imminent and potential supply chain challenges, and are working to connect people together to accelerate innovation and deployment of solutions. On the KTN website, you can also find the COVID-19 hub, a central repository for funding opportunities, online events and signposting to business support and financial help from the Government. It’s never been more important to stay connected and it’s only by working together that we will all come through this difficult time and emerge stronger and more resilient.



 Coronavirus lockdown leading to drop in pollution across Europe

– How we’re managing reduced demand for electricity through the coronavirus outbreak

– COVID-19 and UK Waste Sector

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