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Visits to shops reduced by 77%, to parks by 57% during COVID-19 lockdown in India: Google

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Update (May 1 10:33 am): Google has released state-wise mobility data for India.

Since the Janata Curfew was imposed on March 22 and the country was subsequently locked down on March 25, visits to restaurants, cafes, shopping centres, etc. have reduced by 77%, Google’s COVID-19 Community Mobility Report for India reveals. Released as part of Google’s new project announced earlier today, these country-specific mobility reports track how people’s movement habits have changed since lockdowns were implemented across the world to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. These reports have been created using “aggregated, anonymized data” that Google Maps uses to show how busy certain places are, and at what times.

This done in response to public health officials’ request for “aggregated, anonymized data that could be helpful as they make critical decisions to combat COVID-19”, the company said. These reports could help officials make better informed decisions about things such as business hours and deliveries of essential services, and how to time public transport so that social distancing can still be carried out, according to Google.

Right now, reports for 131 countries are available, and Google intends to cover more countries. For USA, Google has also given state-specific data.

In India, visits to grocery stores, chemists and farmers’ markets reduced by 80% during the Janata Curfew, and have fallen by 65% since the national lockdown was imposed. Visits to parks have fallen down by 57%. Visits to metro stations, bus and train stations have fallen down by 71%, despite crowding by migrant labour across the country around bus depots. As people work from home across the country, visits to offices and “workplaces” have reduced by 47%. Despite all these decreases, trends for residential places have only increased by 22%.

Trends over several weeks will be shown, “with the most recent information representing 48-to-72 hours prior”.

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To protect privacy, Google said that it had taken the following steps:

  • Absolute number of visits will not be shown’ only percentage increase/decrease in visits.
  • No personally identifiable information (including an individual’s location, contacts or movement) is revealed. To do this, Google is using differential privacy.
  • Reports are created on the basis of aggregated, anonymised data sets from users whose Location History setting is turned on.

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