Google Maps’ crucial new update is essential viewing before your next trip

Google Maps has been updated to include a new “Covid-19” filter which brings the latest data on infection rates to the map – immediately letting you know whether somewhere is safe to travel, or best to avoid. The new setting, which is completely optional, uses a seven-day average of new infections per 100,000 so that every region and country is comparable within the app.

Google also includes a handy arrow symbol which tells you at a glance whether infections are trending up or down. There’s also colour coding, which looks like a heat-map, that is designed to help you quickly distinguish the density of new cases in an area.

The latest addition to the hugely-successful navigation software was announced in a blog post by Google Maps Product Manager Sujoy Banerjee. The data used by Google is granular enough that you’ll be able to zoom-in to a county and city-wide level to see whether infections are on the rise, or starting to fall in the area you’re looking to visit for pleasure or work.

Data that shows whether new Covid-19 cases are trending up or down is now in place for all 220 countries and territories available in Google Maps, the Californian company has promised. However, there are still plenty of areas within these countries where the data is not available, so don’t count on being able to track new coronavirus cases in every city on the planet just yet.

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Google is using data from multiple sources, including Johns Hopkins, the New York Times, and Wikipedia.

According to Banerjee, “These sources get data from public health organisations like the World Health Organisation, government health ministries, along with state and local health agencies and hospitals. Many of these sources already power COVID case information in Search, and we’re now expanding this data to Google Maps.”

The optional Covid-19 layer starts has started to roll out worldwide right now. It will be available on Android and iOS, although it might take a few days for the update to reach you since Google staggers these major software roll-outs.

This isn’t the first update to Google Maps designed to make travelling during these uncertain times a fraction easier. Google has already expanded its tools to allow businesses to quickly update their listings to include updated opening times, new facilities – like takeaway options, and restrictions for customers, like required face coverings and limits on the number of people per table.

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