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Google Maps will point out closed shops and restaurants during the coronavirus outbreak

Google is encouraging businesses to update Maps and Search so regular users can see which shops are open and which are closed – before you waste your one walk of the day on them.

Google has shared instructions on how businesses can mark themselves as temporarily closed. While the feature is useful for short term closures and seasonal businesses, it will also doubtless be helpful for stores and customers in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.

Related: How to stop Google using your location data for its Covid-19 behaviour tracking reports

Shop owners can choose between ‘Mark as temporarily closed’, ‘Mark as permanently closed’ and ‘Remove listing’.

If a business hasn’t fully closed but has temporarily adjusted or reduced hours, owners can also use the ‘special hours’ feature to keep customers in the loop. This option allows shop owners to change their opening times for a limited period of time, before defaulting back to their regular hours when that scheduled period is up.

The new Google My Business option was first spotted by SearchEngineLand this week.

This isn’t the first we’ve heard of Google’s plan to help businesses deal with the chaos that is life during Covid-19. The company released a statement on March 15 detailing how it plans to keep users informed during the global crisis.

“With so many disruptions to daily life, people are looking for more information about school or business closures”, said Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.

“Based on data from governments and other authoritative sources, Google Search and Maps will now display if a place, like a school or local business, is temporarily closed. In the coming days, we’ll make it possible for businesses to easily mark themselves as “temporarily closed” using Google My Business. We’re also using our artificial intelligence (AI) technology Duplex where possible to contact businesses to confirm their updated business hours, so we can reflect them accurately when people are looking on Search and Maps”.

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Google Duplex is a Google AI service that aims to make automated phone calls as natural and conversational as possible.

Between calling on business owners to update their hours and relying on its AI to contact those who don’t, it seems Google really is trying to keep track of opening times and closures in the midst of this outbreak.

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