When you search Google for coronavirus-related terms the search results return a “COVID-19 alert” column on the left which has information about the disease such as symptoms, prevention, treatment, and statistics. It also shows a world map illustrating how many cases are estimated to be present in each country, based on Wikipedia data, and case information about your local area and country including confirmed cases, recovered cases, and deaths. All of this information appears above the search results, in what is clearly an effort to redirect people to official information and away from misinformation.
The new addition to the search results is the “Testing” tab which gives information about what testing is available for coronavirus in your local area. It has a link to the Centers for Disease Control’s chatbot which helps users assess whether they might have been infected with the disease and how they should proceed, plus information from local health organizations about testing availability and what to do if you think you might be sick. There is information available about testing locations for most, but not all, U.S. states, based on whether each state’s health authorities have published lists of approving testing centers.
The Testing tab is currently only shown for searches in the U.S. and not in other countries. Google said to The Verge that it displays information for more than 2,000 coronavirus testing centers in 43 states in the U.S.
The U.S. has been slow to introduce testing across the country and now has more cases of COVID-19 than any other country in the world, making it hard for health authorities to know exactly how many people are infected. There are new tests in development, such as a smart testing device developed by researchers at Lancaster University, Brunel University, and the University of Surrey in the U.K., which could provide results within 30 minutes. However, until these devices are verified and produced on a large scale, authorities must continue to rely on the limited number of testing kits available.
For the latest updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak, visit the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 page.
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