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Google Maps gets Covid-19 update to help users avoid crowds

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Google is adding features to its Maps app designed to help people minimise their exposure to Covid-19.

With public transport services operating at minimum capacities and on reduced schedules in many cities across the world, Google intends to make it easier to access information such as how crowded a train station may be.

This information is critical for essential workers who need to safely navigate to their work places, Google said.

When looking up public transit directions for a trip that is likely to be affected by pandemic restrictions, the app will show relevant alerts from local transit agencies.

In addition to the UK, the transit alerts are rolling out in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, France, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Thailand and the US, wherever the information is available.

Google said it plans to add more countries to the list in the near future.

Driving alerts are also being introduced on the app to let users know about checkpoints and restrictions along their route, such as when making national border crossings.

Those visiting healthcare centres will also be warned about the different requirements during a visit to minimise the number of people turned away.

In recent months, the company has analysed location data from billions of Google users’ phones in 131 countries to examine mobility under lockdowns and help health authorities assess if people were abiding with social-distancing rules and other orders issued to rein in the spread of the virus.

In May, Apple and Google also launched a joint toolkit, the Exposure Notification API, which is designed to help public health agencies build privacy-focused coronavirus contact-tracing apps.

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