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Google releases location data to show if coronavirus…

Google is using data harvested directly from users’ devices to reveal how different countries, regions and cities are responding to the coronavirus lockdown. 

A constant stream of data from the tech firm is being published online and compared to the normal ‘baseline’ level from before coronavirus swept the globe. 

It covers data from 131 different countries and breaks it down to show drops in visits to shops, parks, workplaces, transit stations, pharmacies and offices.

A notable location where there is no data available is China – ground-zero for the COVID-19 outbreak, which has now surpassed a million confirmed cases and killed more than 50,000 – due to a government ban on the search giant.  

Hard hit regions outside China, such as Lombardy, Spain, New York and London, show significant decreases in public mobility.

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London's lockdown has seen a significant drop in mobility, according to data gathered and shared online by Google. It reveals a 80 per cent drop in trips to transit stations as well as a 19 per cent hike in time spent in residences (pictured)

London's lockdown has seen a significant drop in mobility, according to data gathered and shared online by Google. It reveals a 80 per cent drop in trips to transit stations as well as a 19 per cent hike in time spent in residences (pictured)

London’s lockdown has seen a significant drop in mobility, according to data gathered and shared online by Google. It reveals a 80 per cent drop in trips to transit stations as well as a 19 per cent hike in time spent in residences (pictured)

London's busiest landmarks are deserted as the city becomes a ghost town amid the coronavirus lockdown. Pictured, a deserted Piccadilly Circus

London's busiest landmarks are deserted as the city becomes a ghost town amid the coronavirus lockdown. Pictured, a deserted Piccadilly Circus

London’s busiest landmarks are deserted as the city becomes a ghost town amid the coronavirus lockdown. Pictured, a deserted Piccadilly Circus

London and New York, the epicentres of their respective countries, have also seen a significant drop in movement. It found New Yorkers are going to the grocery store 32 per cent less often (pictured)

London and New York, the epicentres of their respective countries, have also seen a significant drop in movement. It found New Yorkers are going to the grocery store 32 per cent less often (pictured)

London and New York, the epicentres of their respective countries, have also seen a significant drop in movement. It found New Yorkers are going to the grocery store 32 per cent less often (pictured)

New York City is one if the busiest places in the world, but COVID-19 and lockdown leaves the streets empty. Pictured, empty streets around Rockefeller Center in Manhattan

New York City is one if the busiest places in the world, but COVID-19 and lockdown leaves the streets empty. Pictured, empty streets around Rockefeller Center in Manhattan

New York City is one if the busiest places in the world, but COVID-19 and lockdown leaves the streets empty. Pictured, empty streets around Rockefeller Center in Manhattan

Retail and recreation in Lombardy, the coronavirus-ravaged region of northern Italy, has plummeted by 95 per cent while trips to parks in Madrid have decreased by 92 per cent. 

These two regions have a combined 12,000 deaths — approximately 8,000 in Lombardy and 4,000 in Madrid — more than  fifth of the global death toll. 

London and New York, the epicentres of their respective countries, have also seen a significant drop in movement.

Google’s data reveals an 80 per cent drop in London’s transit trips. It also found New Yorkers are going to the grocery store 32 per cent less often.  

Google’s analysis of location data from billions of users’ is the largest public dataset available to help health authorities assess the abidance of lockdown measures.  

Facebook, which like Google has billions of users, has also shared location data but not publicly. 

NEW YORK’S MOBILITY  

Google data indicates trips to:   

Retail and recreation sites were 62% down

Grocery and pharmacies were 32% down

Parks were 47% down

Transit stations were 68% down

Workplaces were 46% down

Places of residence were 16% higher

LOMBARDY’S MOBILITY  

Google data indicates trips to: 

Retail and recreation sites were 95% down

Grocery and pharmacies were 81% down

Parks were 59% down

Transit stations were 89% down

Workplaces were 65% down

Places of residence were 24% higher

It handed over the movement patterns to non-governmental researchers that are producing similar reports for authorities in several countries. 

The coronavirus has infected more than 1 million people globally, and COVID-19, the respiratory illness it causes, has killed 52,000, according to Reuters tally.

Infectious disease specialists have said analysing travel across groups by age, income and other demographics could help shape public service announcements.

Google, which infers demographics from users’ internet use as well as some data given when signing up to Google services, said it was not reporting demographic information. 

LONDON’S MOBILITY 

Google data indicates trips to:   

Retail and recreation sites were 87% down

Grocery and pharmacies were 48% down

Parks were 59% down

Transit stations were 80% down

Workplaces were 62% down

Places of residence were 19% higher

MADRID’S MOBILITY 

Google data indicates trips to:   

Retail and recreation sites were 94% down

Grocery and pharmacies were 72% down

Parks were 92% down

Transit stations were 89% down

Workplaces were 65% down

Places of residence were 22% higher

Hard hit regions outside China, such as Lombardy, Spain, New York and London, show significant decreases in public mobility

Hard hit regions outside China, such as Lombardy, Spain, New York and London, show significant decreases in public mobility

Retail and recreation in Lombardy, the coronavirus-ravaged region of northern Italy, has plummeted by 95 per cent

Trips to parks in Madrid have decreased by 92 per cent as the city goes into lockdown. The Spanish capital city has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and has recorded more than 4,000 deaths

Trips to parks in Madrid have decreased by 92 per cent as the city goes into lockdown. The Spanish capital city has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and has recorded more than 4,000 deaths

Trips to parks in Madrid have decreased by 92 per cent as the city goes into lockdown. The Spanish capital city has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and has recorded more than 4,000 deaths 

The company said, though, that it was open to including additional information and countries in follow-up reports. 

‘These reports have been developed to be helpful while adhering to our stringent privacy protocols and policies,’ Dr Karen DeSalvo, chief health officer for Google Health and Jen Fitzpatrick, senior vice president for Google Geo, wrote in a blog post.

Google said it published the reports to avoid any confusion about what it was providing to authorities amid a global debate on digital privacy.  

China, Singapore, South Korea and other countries have asked residents to use apps and other technology to track their compliance with quarantines, but privacy activists argue such measures can compromise individual liberties.

Data in Google’s reports come from users who enabled Google’s ‘Location History’ feature on their devices. 

The company said it adopted technical measures to ensure that no individual could be identified through the new reports.

Consultations with US health officials, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization helped inform data shared, Google said.

The company declined to comment to Reuters on whether it has received any legal requests to share more detailed data to help with efforts to tackle the pandemic.

WHAT IS SOCIAL DISTANCING?

Social distancing is a term used by health authorities to help slow the spread of coronavirus by keeping an appropriate distance between people.

Australian health authorities recommend at least 1.5 metres between each person at all times.

This is because coronavirus can be transmitted by: 

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Being in the same space for a long period 
  • Touching the same surface 

Social distancing also refers to limiting physical contact with each other as much as possible which has led to authorities encouraging people to work from home, avoid crowded spaces and public transport as much as possible.

Source: Australian Department of Health

Source: Daily Mail – Articles

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