Coronavirus: More people visiting parks despite lockdown, Google data shows

More people visited parks last weekend compared with two weeks ago, new data from Google shows.

While the country has largely abided by lockdown – with visits to places such as shops and transport hubs falling – last weekend saw a rise in the number of people heading out to the park.

Google is sharing location data gathered from people’s phones in an attempt to understand how people respond to the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdown. It has committed to make the data public as well as giving it to authorities, in the interest of transparency.

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In its second report for the UK, covering the period between February 23 and April 5, the data shows that trips to the park dropped 29% in comparison with the period before the lockdown was introduced.

Google’s first report, which looked at activity between February 16 and March 29, found park usage was down 52%.

Latest figures suggest that, in Greater London, park visits are down just 15%.

Police forces across the country have warned the public to stay at home over Easter, amid fears that a warm start to the weekend could see lockdown rules broken.

Google’s second report also found that visits to grocery stores and pharmacies across the UK were down 41%, while trips to public transport hubs, like bus and railway stations, fell 75%.

The tech giant said it is using aggregated, anonymised data from products such as Google Maps for the analysis.

The scheme protects people’s privacy and will not include any personally identifiable information at any point, Google said.

The data is traditionally used by Google for apps such as Maps to reveal when specific places of interest are busiest, as well as to revise driving routes when being used for navigation.

leftCreated with Sketch.
rightCreated with Sketch.

It comes from Google users who have Location History turned on in their Google account settings.

The setting is off by default but can also be turned off at any time from within the Location History setting, and data can also be directly deleted from a user’s Google Maps timeline.

Additional reporting by agencies

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