As restrictions ease, Canadians are getting out more. Here's where they're going
TORONTO -- As restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 are eased across the country, new data suggests that Canadians are adapting to their new normal, with unprecedented numbers turning to the great outdoors.
Though provincial reopenings have been staggered and varied in approach, the majority of Canadians are once again able to enjoy some semblance of normal life amid the pandemic as retailers, restaurants, and services get back to business.
But publicly available data from tech giant Google suggests that recommendations from health officials to socialize outside have been taken to heart.
Google's most recent Community Mobility Report for Canada found that activity in Canadian parks was up 117 per cent from baseline levels between mid-May and the end of June.
But some Canadians seem to be enjoying the outdoors far more than others.
Time spent in parks in Nova Scotia was up a whopping 242 per cent from baseline in the same time period.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba also saw sharp increases in park activity, up 192 per cent and 189 per cent from baseline, respectively.
In Ontario and Quebec, where localized COVID-19 outbreaks outpaced other provinces leading to longer lockdown measures, there was also an increase in outdoor activity, up 140 per cent and 130 per cent from baseline.
Experts have increasingly recommended that Canadians socialize outdoors when possible to prevent transmission of the novel coronavirus because the virus can spread more easily between people in a closed space.
RETAIL SEES A RISE AS RESTRICTIONS EASED
Nationally, time spent in retail and recreation destinations remains down 21 per cent from what Google normally measures, with time spent on transit down 31 per cent on average.
Those numbers have improved since March when much of the country’s retail and recreation destinations were closed by government order, sinking the stats to more than 50 per cent below baseline.
Retailers are faring better in some provinces, however.
In Manitoba, for example, visits to retail and recreation destinations were down just 12 per cent, compared to Ontario, which currently stands at 27 per cent below baseline.
However, some of Ontario’s most densely populated areas, including Toronto and Peel Region, did not enter Stage 2 of reopening until June 22, well into data collection phase for Google’s report. Manitoba, which recorded far fewer cases than Ontario, began its reopening in early June.
Google's data currently stops at June 27. It did not include enough data to show trends within the territories.
Apple's Mobility Trends Reports tracked similar conclusions for Canada despite reporting data differently. While Google is tracking location data on phones and comparing one location’s current traffic level to its pre-pandemic activity, Apple bases its reports on requests for directions in Apple Maps.
Looking at searches for walking and driving routes, Apple measured a 47 per cent increase in driving route requests and a 39 per cent increase in walking route requests at the end of June.
This marks a significant change from late March and early April, when the tech company measured Canadians' movement activity as being 50 per cent or more below usual levels.
Public transit-related activity remained down by more than 49 per cent, on average.
But these statistics vary widely depending on where in Canada you live.
In Edmonton, for example, Apple measured a 69 per cent increase in driving route requests. Toronto, on the other hand, only recorded a 24 per cent increase.
Apple and Google both say they are preserving privacy in the gathering of this data, collecting it without making personally identifiable information available at any point in the process.