Covid: Google Maps testing new feature for info on availability of beds, oxygen

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Google on Monday said it is testing a new feature in Maps application that enables people to ask about and share local information on the availability of beds and medical oxygen in select locations amid massive coronavirus surge in the country.

The announcement comes as a part of the tech giant’s efforts to support the relief efforts amid the deadly second wave of the pandemic.

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“We know that some of the most crucial information people are searching for is the availability of hospital beds and access to medical oxygen. To help them find answers more easily, we’re testing a new feature using the Q&A function in Maps that enables people to ask about and share local information on availability of beds and medical oxygen in select locations. As this will be user generated content and not provided by authorised sources, it may be required to verify the accuracy and freshness of the information before utilizing it,” Google said in a blog post.

As India witnesses a massive surge in covid cases, hospitals in several states are reeling under a shortage of medical oxygen and beds.

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Social media timelines are filled with SOS calls with people looking for oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, plasma donors, and ventilators.

Google said its teams are focused on three priority areas – ensuring people can access the latest and most authoritative information; amplifying vital safety and vaccination messages; and providing financial backing for affected communities, health authorities and other organisations.

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Searches on the COVID-19 vaccine displays key information around side effects, effectiveness, and registration details, while treatment-related queries surface guidance from ministry resources. On YouTube it is surfacing authoritative information in a set of playlists, about vaccines, preventing the spread of COVID-19, and facts from experts on COVID-19 care.

“…we’re using our channels to help extend the reach of health information campaigns. That includes the ‘Get the Facts’ around vaccines campaign, to encourage people to focus on authoritative information and content for vaccines. We’re also surfacing important safety messages through promotions on the Google homepage, Doodles and reminders within our apps and services.”

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In addition to showing 2,500 testing centers on Search and Maps, Google is now sharing the locations of over 23,000 vaccination centres nationwide, in English and eight Indian languages, it said.

“And we’re continuing to work closely with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to make more vaccination center information available to users throughout India…we’re using our channels to help extend the reach of health information campaigns,” it added.

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The company said it has been running an internal donation campaign to raise funds for non-profit organisations, including GiveIndia, Charities Aid Foundation India, GOONJ, and United Way of Mumbai.

This campaign has raised over USD 4.6 million ( 33 crore) to date, and continues to generate much-needed support for relief efforts.

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Google has also rolled out a COVID Aid campaign on Google Pay, wherein people can donate to non-profit organisations like GiveIndia, Charities Aid Foundation, Goonj, Save the Children, Seeds, UNICEF India (National NGOs) and United Way towards COVID relief work.

“As India battles this devastating wave, we’ll keep doing all we can to support the selfless individuals and committed organizations on the front lines of the response. There’s a long way to go—but standing together in solidarity, working together with determination, we can and will turn the tide,” the search giant stated.

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