UK park visits increased last weekend despite Covid-19 lockdown

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More people visited parks throughout the UK last weekend compared with two weeks ago, according to location data from Google which tracks Britons’ movements amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The US tech giant’s has begun uses aggregated, anonymised data from products such as Google Maps to compile reports on how our lives are changing to adapt to stringent social distancing measures rolled out during the crisis.

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 per cent in comparison with the period before the lockdown was introduced nearly three weeks ago.

Google’s first report, which looked at activity between February 16 and March 29, found park usage was down 52 per cent compared against the same period.

Latest figures suggest that, in Greater London, park visits are meanwhile down just 15 per cent.

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The report came as police forces across the country warned the public to stay at home over the upcoming Easter weekend amid fears that an ongoing bout of warm weather could encourage Britons to head outside of their homes and break lockdown rules.

Reinforcing the instruction to stay in doors, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Thursday said Britons “mustn’t give the coronavirus a second chance to kill more people and hurt our country”.

Speaking during the Government’s daily Covid-19 briefing, Mr Raab urged people to show restraint amid signs nationwide lockdown measures were having an impact and confirmed the restrictions were likely to be extended beyond next week.

“It’s been almost three weeks and we’re starting to see the impact of the sacrifices we’ve all made,” he said.

“But the deaths are still rising and we haven’t yet reached the peak of the virus. So it’s still too early to lift the measures that we put in place.”

Emphasising the impact of the lockdown restrictions, Google’s second report also revealed that visits to grocery stores and pharmacies across the UK were down 41 per cent, while trips to public transport hubs, like bus and railway stations, fell 75 per cent.

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The information being used to produce the new reports is traditionally used by the company to inform Google Maps users when specific places of interest are busiest and revise driving routes to account for traffic, among other things.

The data comes from users who have Location History turned on in their Google account settings – a setting which is turned 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 company has said it will not include any personally identifiable information in its new reports at any point.

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