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COVID-19: Google data shows drop in movement in public areas

The community mobility reports are now available for 131 countries, including India

The community mobility reports are now available for 131 countries, including India   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Health officials can go to the ‘COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports’ website, pick their country and download a PDF that charts the community movements

In the wake of the March 22 'Janata Curfew' and the subsequent ongoing 21-day nationwide lockdown, public movement in India at areas with restaurants, pharmacies, parks and workplaces had declined by a range varying from 77-47%, while movement in residential areas had increased by 22%, according to a report by Google.

COVID-19 | Interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in India

The ‘COVID-19 Community Mobility Report’ covers 131 countries and regions, and uses aggregated, anonymised data to chart movement trends over time by geography, across different high-level categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential.

“In Google Maps, we use aggregated, anonymised data showing how busy certain types of places are — helping identify when a local business tends to be the most crowded,” Jen Fitzpatrick, SVP, Geo and Karen DeSalvo, Chief Health Officer, Google Health, said in a co-written blog post. “We have heard from public health officials that this same type of aggregated, anonymised data could be helpful as they make critical decisions to combat COVID-19,” they added.

The report comes at a time when communities across the globe looking at measures such as social distancing as a key action to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In India, the report finds that there has been a dip of 77% in mobility trends for places like restaurants, cafes, shopping centres and movie theaters, a 65% drop at grocery markets, food warehouses, farmers’ markets and pharmacies, a 57% fall for places like public beaches and gardens, a 71% decline at public transport hubs and a 47% drop for places of work. However, the mobility trends in the places of residence category showed an increase of 22%.

While observing that the report “aims to provide insights into what has changed in response to work from home, shelter in place, and other policies aimed at flattening the curve of this pandemic” Google, however, added no detailed explanations for the changes in the mobility patterns recorded, which are based on users’ location history data.

The baseline used to calculate the mobility trend was “the median value, for the corresponding day of the week, during the 5-week period Jan 3–Feb 6, 2020”, and captured the first few days of the lockdown period.

“In addition to other resources public health officials might have, we hope these reports will help support decisions about how to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, this information could help officials understand changes in essential trips that can shape recommendations on business hours or inform delivery service offerings,” the Google officials wrote.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 8:31:56 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/internet/covid-19-google-maps-offers-user-location-data-to-health-officials/article31247892.ece

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