We investigate the regional distribution of the COVID-19 outbreak in Germany. We use a novel digital mobility dataset, that traces the undertaken trips on Easter Sunday 2020 and instrument them with regional accessibility as measured by the regional road infrastructure of Germany's 401 NUTS III regions. We identify a robust negative association between the number of infected cases per capita and accessibility by road infrastructure, measured by the average travel time to the next major urban center. What has been a hinderance for economic performance in good economic times, appears to be a benevolent factor in the COVID-19 pandemic: bad road infrastructure. Using road infrastructure as an instrument for mobility reductions we assess the causal effect of mobility reduction on infections. The study shows that keeping mobility of people low is a main factor to reduce infections. Aggregating over all regions, our results suggest that there would have been about 63,000 infections less on May 5th, 2020, if mobility at the onset of the disease were 10 percent lower.
Digital technology Mobility data Regional road infrastructure Germany COVID-19