How COVID-19 has changed what we search for online

google 2020

(Benjamin Dada, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Emma Charlton, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • ‘Can children pass on coronavirus?’ searches spiked around the world on 12 May.
  • Meanwhile, searches for quarantine hobbies in the United States rose by 400%.
  • Employment support was widely searched for.

What are we searching for online as many of us live under lockdown restrictions to avoid COVID-19?

Google Trends offers insights into what people in different countries are thinking and searching for in the midst of the pandemic.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

A new strain of Coronavirus, COVID 19, is spreading around the world, causing deaths and major disruption to the global economy.

Responding to this crisis requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

The Forum has created the COVID Action Platform, a global platform to convene the business community for collective action, protect people’s livelihoods and facilitate business continuity, and mobilize support for the COVID-19 response. The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

Around the world, searches relating to whether children can pass on coronavirus spiked on 12 May, while those about good hobbies to take up during quarantine soared 400% in the United States.

coronavirus internet search engine google employment job hobbies leisure pastime entertainment media tv video drinks covid19 health questions queries
What people were searching for on 12 May.
Image: Google Trends

Coronavirus is a huge search topic, eclipsing many others, the data shows.

And while the global languages of search may differ, many of the concerns are similar. Google’s EMEA director of insights Lucy Sinclair outlined some of these, including how financial security has remained top of people’s minds. There are increased searches for ‘unemployment benefit’ (‘prestación por desempleo’) in Spain, ‘furlough claim’ in the United Kingdom, ‘unemployment grant’ in South Africa and ‘job centre’ (‘urząd pracy’) in Poland.

coronavirus internet search engine google employment job hobbies leisure pastime entertainment media tv video drinks covid19 health questions queries
Searches for ‘coronavirus’ increased by 100% on the 12 March.
Image: Google Trends

It’s not all serious stuff. Rising ‘how to’ queries in the UK include how to make the cocktail Pimm’s, how to make a face mask out of a sock and how to fold a cereal box.

coronavirus internet search engine google employment job hobbies leisure pastime entertainment media tv video drinks covid19 health questions queries
Face masks are a common search for the British.
Image: Google Trends

In Canada, the top ‘how to’ question is about temporary income support, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), followed by how to make a face mask and hand sanitizer.

coronavirus internet search engine google employment job hobbies leisure pastime entertainment media tv video drinks covid19 health questions queries
What Canadians have been searching.
Image: Google Trends

Sinclair says all the data Google is compiling also shows how consumer behaviour is changing, with searches for home exercise and ‘walks near me’ on the up.

“People are increasingly playing games such as ‘bingo’ in Denmark,” she wrote. “And ‘old-fashioned Dutch games’ (‘oud hollandse spelletjes’) in the Netherlands.”

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