Coronavirus: New Google data shows how COVID-19 hit movement in Saudi Arabia, UAE

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Google has released a new data set that shows how well countries and regions have followed health advice to stay at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The country-specific data shows a major decrease in movement during the coronavirus pandemic in both the UAE and Saudi Arabia, where movement related to retail and recreation fell by 48 percent and 46 percent, respectively.

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Both countries implemented strict coronavirus lockdowns, implemented movement permit systems, and shut down non-essential businesses to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

For grocery stores and pharmacies, movement fell by 22 percent in the UAE, and by 26 percent in Saudi Arabia. Grocery stores and pharmacies remained open throughout lockdowns, but Google data shows that some people either limited trips or found alternative methods, such as grocery delivery.

Park visits fell by 66 percent in the UAE, and by 60 percent in Saudi Arabia, for the period from May 8 to June 19. In the US, which has experienced one of the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks, park visits increased by 60 percent during the same period.

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In the US, grocery and pharmacy traffic saw no change, but retail and recreation saw a modest 15 percent fall.

The only category that saw an increase across the board was movement within residential areas, with 16 percent in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but 9 percent in the US.

Google used location data – which users had to turn on – to get a picture of how movement across communities has shifted during the pandemic. Using a pre-pandemic baseline value, researchers compared volumes of visitors in certain locations, like supermarkets and offices, to garner movement-related insights.

“These Community Mobility Reports aim to provide insights into what has changed in response to policies aimed at combating COVID-19,” Google’s information on the reports said. “The reports chart movement trends over time by geography, across different categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential.”

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