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Google data: Finns swap shopping centres for parks and jogging trails

The biggest decline in visits to commercial establishments was in Lapland.

Finns have been exercising outdoors during the pandemic. Image: Eleni Paspatis / Yle

Google has published data on the movement of people during the coronavirus epidemic that reveals that its users have largely swapped indoor commercial spaces for the great outdoors since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

The tech giant published country-specific statistics on how people have changed their behaviour, with the Finnish section available here.

The stats show that between 16 February and 29 March, Finns have reduced the time they spend in shopping centres, cafes, restaurants, museums and cinemas by some 52 percent.

Trips to grocery stores and pharmacies also dropped by some 21 percent. Public transport usage fell by 59 percent and commuting trips dropped by a quarter.

At the same time, people spent 48 percent more time in parks and in waterfront settings.

According to the Google data, movement in the centre of Finnish towns and villages began to reduce three weeks ago. That’s when the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus to be a pandemic, and the Finnish government urged people to reduce social contacts and work from home.

Enthusiasm for spending time outdoors grew substantially around a week after that.

The biggest changes occurred in Finnish Lapland, where shopping and restaurant trips fell some 62 percent and grocery store and pharmacy visits fell 30 percent.

Google’s data is based on anonymised information that the company gathers from users who have given permission for it to use geolocation services.

The company says it published the data in the hope that it might be useful to health authorities.