[Update: Also on Assistant Phone Line] Google to surface locations of food and night shelters across Maps, Search and Assistant in Indian cities

[Update: Also on Assistant Phone Line] Google to surface locations of food and night shelters across Maps, Search and Assistant in Indian cities

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Update 1 (4/10/20 @ 05:15 AM ET): The information for food and night shelters will also be available through the Google Assistant phone line in India. Scroll to the bottom for more information. The article as published on April 7, 2020, is preserved below.

On March 25th, a 21-day lockdown commenced in India as a preventive measure against COVID-19. While this measure ensures safety for the majority of the Indian population, all commercial activity has also come to halt abruptly. The closure has led to the efflux of migrant and daily-wage workers from bigger cities, where they work, to their villages and hometowns while others are left stranded and without adequate resources or food because of suspended incomes. To mitigate this, local authorities are organizing food camps and shelters for these workers and the information for these camps will now be available through Google Maps, Search, and Assistant.

Google recently announced that it is working closely with the local governing bodies and the Indian government at the nation-level to list information about food distribution centers and night shelters on its services. The service can currently be used to search for information about these shelters in 31 Indian cities and the information about more is being added. The information can be accessed directly in Google Maps by tapping on the dedicated shortcuts under the search bar.

It is understood that the majority of these workers might not own a smartphone (due to low wages). But, the service can also be utilized through Google Maps, Search, and Assistant on the Reliance JioPhone as well as on other smart feature phones. The latter includes a wide range of Nokia-branded 4G feature phones running on KaiOS.

google maps covid-19

Even though the feature is of minimal utility to prosperous users, we urge you to help those out who may be in need of food or shelter during these challenging times. The lockdown in India is slated to end on April 15th, following which the governments in different states are expected to ease the restrictions in a “staggered” manner. The country might even see an extension to this lockdown if there’s no decline in the rate at which new cases are being reported. So remember, your help could be vital to someone in need.


Update: Also available on Google Assistant helpline

Google recently announced that the service is also available through the Google Assistant phone line that was launched last year at the Google for India event. Vodafone-Idea users can dial 000 800 9191 0000 and receive information about food distribution centers and night shelters in English as well as in Hindi.