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Apple data show dramatic impact of virus on movement

/ 05:19 PM April 16, 2020
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A man wearing a facemask to protect against the COVID-19 coronavirus walks outside an Apple Store in Beijing on Feb. 22, 2020. Image: AFP/Nicolas Asfouri

Apple has launched a new website that shows with striking graphs how the coronavirus pandemic has slammed the brakes on life around the world.

The tool visualizes the movement of people in dozens of major cities and countries around the world based on the number of requests made for directions on Apple Maps since Jan. 13.

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It shows the dramatic drop in the number of users driving, walking or taking public transit as governments around the world rolled out increasingly stringent containment measures to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

Apple said Tuesday that the purpose of the new website was to help global efforts to try and stop the spread of COVID-19 by giving insights into the movement of people to governments and health authorities.

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Hong Kong and Seoul, among the first places hit by the virus after it emerged in mainland China, saw mobility numbers drop by as much as 60% from the second half of January.

In the weeks that followed, the disease marched into Europe and North America, and the Apple data show the severe impact on movement in those regions.

Rome saw a staggering drop in mobility numbers — more than 90% — starting early March. London followed within a couple of weeks with a plunge in transit figures of nearly 90%.

New York City, the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, saw transit and walking down by more than 80% in March as the crisis worsened.

A similar drop was seen in Sydney in March as Australia strengthened its social distancing policies.

In Singapore, mobility figures were reduced but not dramatically since January, but following a surge in cases and a lockdown imposed earlier this month, they plunged.

Apple’s website follows the launch earlier this month of a similar movement data tool from Google.

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Both projects use anonymized data, the firms have said, as rights activists have raised concerns about the privacy and security of users being compromised in anti-coronavirus projects that involve personal information.

Google and Apple have also announced that they are teaming up to help authorities trace contacts between people using Bluetooth technology, and have vowed that privacy and security are “central” to the initiative. RGA

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TOPICS: Apple, coronavirus, mobility, pandemic, Transportation
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