Google has now announced COVID-19 and coronavirus travel-related alerts in Search, Maps, and at its dedicated Travel site via both desktop and mobile. The goal is to help users who absolutely must travel in spite of social distancing guidelines do so more conveniently and safely.
Now, when users perform a search for hotels, flights, things to do and other travel activities, COVID-19-related alerts and restrictions will be brought forward. Those appear directly at the top of the results. First and foremost, those will be related to advisories and restrictions for the given destination. It will also include relevant links to more details from a country's travel-related authorities or agencies, where applicable.
Secondary to that, Google is aiming to make travel more convenient too. When users look for a flight in Search or Google Flights, Google presents a link to its Help Center. That specifically leads to details about airline policies, allowing users to get up-to-date airline-specific information.
The coronavirus alerts are comprehensively placed and region-specific
The coronavirus travel notifications should be showing up for any user with access to the services Google has added the alerts to. But that doesn't' mean they're going to show up for searches related to travel to just any destination. Instead, Google took a more comprehensive approach, limiting alert appearances to searches for regions that are actively putting policies in place.
For instance, a search for flights to Salt Lake City did not surface a COVID-19 alert. Conversely, searching out flights to China did. Similarly, the alerts only crop up in Google Maps with key searches. Namely, Users must actively search for services such as hotels in an affected region.
That limitation is also only seen in Google searches and Google Maps. For Google's Travel site — found at the "www.Google.com/Travel" URL — the alert appears prominently at the top of Trips page. Google placed that on its own card, alongside a link to travel advice from the World Health Organization (WHO).
These coronavirus alerts are part of a much bigger push from Google
The search giant says it made the change following a steep uptick in the number of related queries from users. Specifically, Google users are searching out travel advisories and trip cancellation policies linked to the disease. The new features will be inarguably useful in that regard. But the alerts are also part of a far wider, concerted effort from the company to keep users informed and safe.
Not only is the company enforcing a work from home policy for most of its employees. It's canceled one of its biggest gatherings for the year, removed unofficial coronavirus apps from the Google Play Store. The company also effectively halted development on its Chrome OS platform for the time being.
With regard to Maps-related changes, Google added an alert prompting users to call doctors before heading in if they show symptoms of coronavirus. The search giant is additionally encouraging business owners to update their listings in Search and Maps. That's meant to include policies for handling and preventing the disease as well as temporary changes to operations.