The propagation effect of commuting to work in the spatial transmission of COVID-19

Timo Mitze, Reinhold Kosfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This work is concerned with the spatiotemporal dynamics of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Germany. Our goal is twofold: first, we propose a novel spatial econometric model of the epidemic spread across NUTS-3 regions to identify the role played by commuting-to-work patterns for spatial disease transmission. Second, we explore if the imposed containment (lockdown) measures during the first pandemic wave in spring 2020 have affected the strength of this transmission channel. Our results from a spatial panel error correction model indicate that, without containment measures in place, commuting-to-work patterns were the first factor to significantly determine the spatial dynamics of daily COVID-19 cases in Germany. This indicates that job commuting, particularly during the initial phase of a pandemic wave, should be regarded and accordingly monitored as a relevant spatial transmission channel of COVID-19 in a system of economically interconnected regions. Our estimation results also provide evidence for the triggering role of local hot spots in disease transmission and point to the effectiveness of containment measures in mitigating the spread of the virus across German regions through reduced job commuting and other forms of mobility.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Geographical Systems
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)5-31
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Containment measures
  • Job commuting
  • Lockdown
  • Mobility
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Spatial econometrics


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