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Google data shows how people’s movements have changed since outbreak

Visits to shops, museums and cafes in the UK have fallen by 85% since the coronavirus outbreak, according to data shared by Google. 

The technology firm’s anonymised data of people’s locations provides an insight into how the public are moving around during the pandemic.

The information comes from products such as Google Maps, the company said.

During the period between 16 February and 29 March, visits by people in the UK to retail and recreation locations, such as restaurants, shopping centres and galleries dropped by 85%.

Trips to outdoor spaces such as parks and beaches fell 52%.

The data also revealed that people were travelling to transit stations 75% less often, and journeys to workplaces dropped 55%.

The only area of movement that increased was in residential parts – by 15% – indicating people are staying at home and following government guidance.

More from Covid-19

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 31:Rush hour at a nearly empty Waterloo Train Station station on March 31, 2020 in London, England. British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced strict lockdown measures urging people to stay at home and only leave the house for basic food shopping, exercise once a day and essential travel to and from work. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming over 40,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more. (Photo by Ollie Millington/Getty Images)
Image: Transport hubs such as Waterloo station have seen a huge drop in footfall

The government has supported Google in using data in this way.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We’re working closely with tech companies to find innovative ways to stop the spread of coronavirus, protect the NHS and save lives.

“Google’s publication of COVID-19 mobility reports will help improve our understanding of the impact of the social distancing measures.

“Using anonymous data in this way is a great example of how we can do that, while continuing to protect people’s personal data.”

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The data comes from Google users who have Location History turned on in their Google account settings – this setting is off by default.

However, it can also be turned off at any time from within Location History setting, and data can also be directly deleted from a user’s Google Maps timeline.

The percentage change is how much the mobility in the area has reduced compared to the median amount of travel was recorded for that day of the week between 3 January and 6 February this year.

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