Alphabet Inc's Google has released charts showing how the coronavirus has brought a hard-hit Italy to a standstill, run in grocery stores around the world, and caused a sharp drop in Mardi Gras and St. Patrick's go-out numbers. s day. Analyzing location data from billions of Google users' phones is the largest public record available to help health authorities assess whether people are taking protective measures and giving similar instructions around the world to contain the virus.
The company released reports for 131 countries with charts comparing traffic from February 16 to March 29 with retail and leisure facilities, train stations and bus stops, grocery stores, and jobs over a five-week period earlier this year.
Google announced that it had released the reports to avoid confusion about what it provided to the authorities, given the global debate that has developed about the balance between privacy-invasive location tracking and the need to prevent further outbreaks. The data often correlated with the severity of the outbreaks and the severity and breadth of the government orders.
In Italy and Spain, two of the hardest hit countries, visits to retail and recreational areas such as restaurants and cinemas decreased by 94%.
The United Kingdom, France and the Philippines fell more than 80%, while India, which was suddenly blocked for 21 days on March 25, also saw a 77% decline. In the United States, where government responses varied widely, and in Australia, where the good weather initially caused many people to go to the beach before social distancing measures were taken, the declines were less steep, at less than 50%. In contrast, in Japan and Sweden, where the authorities have not imposed strict restrictions, visits to retail and recreation areas have decreased by only about a quarter.
While in South Korea, which successfully contained a major outbreak through aggressive testing and contact tracking, the decline was only 19%. The data also underscores some of the challenges that the authorities face to keep people apart.
Grocery store visits increased in Singapore, the United Kingdom and elsewhere as travel restrictions were introduced.
Visits to parks in some districts of the San Francisco Bay Area that were blocked in California increased in March, forcing them to block the locations later. The data also underscores how the mood of people around the world has changed.
In New Orleans, during the annual carnival celebrations from February 16-25, which were subsequently criticized for contributing to the spread of the virus, there was an increase in traffic to transit stations, parks, and off-card businesses. Three weeks later, in Dublin, the heart of St. Patrick's holiday celebrations, traffic in retail and leisure facilities declined as the country ordered major events to be canceled.
There was great variation in behavior across regions across countries. California, the first country in the United States to be blocked nationwide, cut visits to retail and recreation areas by half.
In the State of New York, the decline in such visits was gradual as officials waited to impose strict restrictions, but eventually fell by 62%. In contrast, Arkansas, one of the few states with no total closure, experienced the smallest decrease, at 29%.
The corona virus has infected more than 1 million people worldwide, and COVID-19, the respiratory disease it causes, killed 52,000 people, according to a Reuters report. There have been no reports of China and Iran blocking Google services.
The company said it had taken technical measures to ensure that no one could be identified by the new reports.
"These reports are designed to help you comply with our strict data protection protocols and guidelines," wrote Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Chief Health Officer of Google Health, and Jen Fitzpatrick, Senior Vice President of Google Geo, in a blog post.
China, Singapore, South Korea and other countries have asked residents to use apps and other technologies to track quarantine compliance. However, data protection activists argue that such measures can endanger individual freedoms. Infectious disease specialists have stated that analyzing travel between groups by age, income, and other demographic characteristics could help shape public announcements.
Google, which derives demographic data from users' Internet use and some data that was provided when registering with Google services, said it did not report any demographic information.
However, the company said it was open to including additional information and countries in subsequent reports.