social distancing canada

New data shows the cities in Canada where people are staying inside the least

For those abiding by social distancing directives and staying home as much as possible, it can be frustrating to see others continuing to go out and about as if it's life as usual — especially when the approaching spring weather means we'd all be enjoying the outdoors if we were able to right now.

Whether it's because police have been handing out hefty fines to those caught gathering in public places and hanging out with people they don't live with, or whether it's because people are actually afraid of the deadly infectious disease going around, residents of some cities do seem to be continuing to heed the rules — leaving their houses far less than they did before the pandemic.

But according to some new data, citizens of other locales in Canada are starting to get back to near-normal amounts of walking around now that it's getting warmer out.

Apple has been keeping track of mobility trends throughout the health crisis, showing how much people are walking, driving and taking transit in various cities around the world based on how often they're looking up navigation routes on their devices' maps apps.

This data shows that in major Canadian cities like Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa and Halifax, all modes of transportation dropped off dramatically in March as stricter stay-at-home measures were implemented.

And, route requests are still drastically down in all of the above cities.

But in Calgary, it seems that people are getting out for more than just  essential trips these days, as they are starting to map walking trips far more often — approaching and even hitting baseline levels for the first time in more than a month.

While people are out walking 70 per cent less than baseline levels in Toronto, 57 per cent less in Vancouver, 64 per cent in Montreal, 56 per cent less in Ottawa and 59 per cent less in Halifax as of April 26, people in Calgary are mapping walking routes only 19 per cent less than the baseline level pre-COVID-19 after a more substantial dip in late March and early April.

A few days prior, on April 21 and 24, these numbers were up to the baseline.

Despite the fact that the Albertan city has a large suburban population, the number of residents mapping driving routes is not similarly spiking back up — perhaps another an indication that people aren't leaving the house to go on essential grocery runs, but to get out and enjoy the weather.

Based on the mobility data, driving is down 64 per cent from pre-pandemic baseline in Toronto, 53 per cent in Vancouver, 67 per cent in Montreal, 61 per cent in Ottawa, 56 per cent in Halifax and 48 per cent in Calgary as of April 26.

The use of iPhone maps for trips via public transit is down more than 80 per cent in all of these cities, with Calgary not much of an outlier, down 77 per cent.

Though lockdown rules are now loosening in provinces like New Brunswick and soon Saskatchewan, Alberta is still in a state of emergency, with police issuing $1,200 tickets to those not properly social distancing and patrolling parks.

Calgary recently extended its cancellation of all events in the city until at least August 31, and residents are still being asked to stay away from others in public spaces, stay at home when or where possible and minimize errands.

Like residents of many Canadian cities, Calgarians have been complaining on social media (and to authorities) about witnessing others who aren't exactly following the pandemic rules.

Some have pointed out, though, that Calgary's suburban nature means people may be better able to maintain the requisite two metres of physical distancing from others while leaving the house than if they were in, say, the downtown core of Toronto.

Though people are, of course, permitted to go outside for things like exercise, it is somewhat concerning that more residents of the city are leaving their houses and going out into the public for unnecessary outings in the past week — and may continue to do so with the onset of nice weather — especially when these numbers were far lower earlier in the relative lockdown.

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