Coronavirus: Google Location Data Shows Rise In Visits To Parks


Google releases second tranche of location data that reveals there was a rise in people visiting parks during the warm weather last weekend

Alphabet’s Google division has released its second tranche of location data for 131 countries, that shows whether people are obeying self-isolating and quarantine rules.

That data showed that during last weekend’s sunnu weather, visits to parks in the UK had increased despite the lockdown. That said, the numbers were still down on what was usual.

Google had released its first tranche of location data on Thursday 2 April that showed in the UK visits to supermarkets had surged in late March.

Community Mobility Reports

Google’s ‘Community Mobility Reports’ shows whether visits to shops, parks and workplaces have risen or dropped.

Google’s analysis of location data comes from billions of users’ phones (those phones with a Google account that has location sharing enabled). No personally identifiable information, such as an individual’s location, contacts or movement, are revealed.

“Google prepared this report to help you and public health officials understand responses to socialdistancing guidance related to Covid-19,” said the firm. “This report shouldn’t be used for medical diagnostic,prognostic, or treatment purposes. It also isn’t intended to be used for guidance on personal travelplans.

So what does the UK report reveal?

FYI, baseline is the records from the five-week period between 3 January and 6 February 2020, before the lockdown was implemented in the UK (Monday 23 March).

Well it seems that there has been an 82 percent decrease (from baseline) in retail and recreation visits, as Brits take the lockdown seriously.

There was also a 42 percent decline (from baseline) in visits to grocery and pharmacy shops as well.

In addition, there was a 29 percent decline in visits to parks last weekend before the lockdown, however the data from two weeks shows that visits to parks had been down 52 percent before the lockdown.

This shows that the sunny weather, that the government had been worried would tempt people out of the houses, did in fact happen in places. This is backed up by pictures that people took last weekend on parks in London.

The government advice is clear. Parks can only be used for exercise, and people need to remain 2m (6.6ft) away from others, apart from members of their own household. Sunbathing or having a BBQ in a park is not exercise.

This spike does not bode well for the Easter bank holiday weekend, where the weather is expected to remain warm.

Police have warned they will crack down on those breaking lockdown rules.

Location data

Last month it was reported that European mobile operators were sharing location data with health authorities in Italy, Germany and Austria, in an effort to fight the spread of the pandemic.

Operators apparently shared data to show whether people were complying with local curbs on movement.

Days later, the British government reportedly approached at least one UK mobile operator regarding location data, to see if citizens were practising social isolation.

The government was said to be in talks with BT (which owns EE) over revealing mobile data to see if Brits are social distancing.

Mobile location data has been used heavily in South Korea in its fight against Coronavirus, as well as in other countries such as Israel.

Other countries such as Turkey and even certain states in America, are also planning to use smartphone location data.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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