Google releases location data for 131 countries

Alphabet Inc’s Google on Thursday published reports for 131 countries showing whether visits to shops, parks and workplaces dropped in March, when many governments issued stay-at-home orders to rein in the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Google’s analysis of location data from billions of users’ phones is the largest public dataset available to help health authorities assess if people are abiding with shelter-in-place and similar orders issued across the world.

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Its reports show charts that compare traffic from Feb. 16 to March 29 at subway, train and bus stations, grocery stores and other broad categories of places with a five-week period earlier this year.

In Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the virus, visits to retail and recreation locations, including restaurants and movie theaters, plunged 94% while visits to workplaces slid 63%. Reflecting the severity of the crisis there, grocery and pharmacy visits in Italy dropped 85% and park visits were down by 90%.

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In the United States, California, which was the first in the with a statewide lockdown, cut visits to retail and recreation locations by half. By contrast, Arkansas, one of the few states without a sweeping lockdown, has seen such visits fall 29%, the lowest for a U.S. state.

The data also underscore some challenges authorities have faced in keeping people apart. Grocery store visits surged in Singapore, the United Kingdom and elsewhere as travel restrictions were set to go into place. Visits to parks spiked in March in some San Francisco Bay Area counties, forcing them to later put the sites off limits.

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By contrast, in Japan where authorities have been relatively relaxed in urging social distancing measures but where calls have been growing daily for a state of emergency, visits to retail and recreational places fell 26%. Visits to workplace dropped a mere 9%.

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

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