Coronavirus: Google data suggests park visits rose on weekend

  • Published
People in a park in LondonImage source, EPA

Visits to parks increased last weekend compared to two weeks ago, according to activity data from Google.

Overall, its UK report suggests far fewer people have been going out compared to life before lockdown, although visits to parks increased during last weekend's warm weather.

The tech giant has released its second set of reports looking at activity in 131 countries during the pandemic.

There was also an increase in use of transport hubs and food stores.

Google has been collecting location data from people who have opted into Location History tracking. It is using this to produce reports that show how busy areas are compared to a period earlier in the year.

The data only shows people's activity in aggregate and not specific individuals' behaviours. But it does offer breakdowns for specific areas - in the case of the UK, on a county-by-county basis.

Data for two weeks ago had suggested visits to places such as parks, public beaches and gardens were down 52% compared to life before lockdown.

But last weekend, the figure was 29%.

There had been concerns that sunny weather would tempt people out, and a number of parks were closed last weekend.

In Greater London, the data indicates, visits to parks were down just 15% compared to life before lockdown.

Government advice says people can go to the park to exercise, but they should stay 2m (6.6ft) away from others, apart from members of their own household.

The full report for the UK has been published on Google's website.

More warm weather has been predicted for the Easter bank holiday weekend, and police have warned that they will crack down on those breaking lockdown rules.

How is Google collecting this data?

The report uses data from people who have enabled Location History tracking in their Google account.

Google collects location data from their smartphones. It normally does this to provide advice about how busy shops and other attractions are, and whether there is traffic on the road ahead.

In this case, it uses the information to gauge how busy places are, compared to life before lockdown.

It uses records from the five-week period between 3 January and 6 February 2020 as its baseline for life before lockdown.