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Google is developing a virus testing website for the US
[NEW YORK] Google is helping the US government build a website to speed test for the coronavirus, President Donald Trump said at a news conference.
The website will help people figure out if they need testing and direct them to the closest location, which will include drive-through testing centres in Walmart and Target parking lots, Mr Trump said Friday. Alphabet's Google has roughly 1,700 engineers working on the project, he added.
Separately, Alphabet chief executive officer Sundar Pichai told employees the company's Verily health-care division was working on a website to help coordinate virus testing.
"A planning effort is underway to use the expertise in life sciences and clinical research of Verily in partnership with Google to aid in the Covid-19 testing effort," Mr Pichai wrote in an internal email seen by Bloomberg.
Representatives for Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Verily declined to comment.
The website is one of several announcements Mr Trump made during the press conference in the White House Rose Garden. He declared a national emergency, waived student-loan interest payments and said the government would buy large quantities of oil to help stabilise prices. A coterie of executives including executives from Walmart and CVS Health Corp stood alongside the president. No one from Google was present.
On March 3, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) principal deputy director Anne Schuchat told Congress that the agency was using Google location data for "travel patterns and for other means". She didn't provide more details and Google and the CDC haven't commented.
Mr Pichai has sent a steady stream of memos to his employees in recent weeks, calling on them to rise to the challenge of helping people communicate and access the best information during the pandemic.
The company has aggressively intervened in some of its most popular online services to limit the spread of hoaxes and misinformation and provide its users with helpful and accurate health information. Google searches related to the virus trigger an "SOS Alert", which shows updates from mainstream news publications and health authorities ahead of regular search results.