Canadians still flock to parks and businesses as country braces for Wave 2

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TORONTO – Even though the back-to-school season has coincided with a steady rise in the number of active COVID-19 cases in Canada and fears that a second wave may soon arrive, Canadians do not appear to be adjusting their behavior significantly when he just left the house. Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, said on Sunday that many Canadians appear to be taking a “we can do what we want” approach to their lives in recent weeks.

“I feel like a lot of people just put up their hands and said, ‘I’m sick of this. I hug, I go out, I see friends, “” he told CTV News Canal on Sunday.

This sentiment is supported by data compiled by Google and Apple, which shows Canadians spend more time in parks and businesses than they even were in the first half of summer when the country came out. for the first time in its various lockdowns imposed by a pandemic. .

Google bases its public mobility reports on information gleaned from users of its services that allow the company to track the destinations they visit.

According to its most recent report for Canada, dated September 11, Canadians are spending 151% more time in parks than before the start of the pandemic.

This can be partially explained by the timing; of course, a park will be busier in September than it was in February. More telling, however, is that based on Google data, park use has increased steadily over the past few months – from 80% above baseline in early June to 140% in mid-June. July to 150% on September 11. .

Spend less time at home

The activity of Canadians in retail and leisure establishments has also increased – what Google calls “places like restaurants, cafes, malls, theme parks, museums, libraries and movie theaters. “.

At the height of the lockdown in early April, activity at these establishments was up to 80% below Google’s pre-pandemic baseline. That number has slowly rebounded since, even surpassing Labor Day weekend before settling for a longer stay just below baseline.

The Labor Day weekend is also a high point in Apple’s mobility trends report, which was collected en masse for Canada. Apple found that requests for driving directions were 88% higher on September 4 than they were on January 13 (their pre-pandemic baseline), while requests for walking directions increased by 80%. Both figures were at their highest in 2020 (requests for public transport routes were about two-thirds of their pre-pandemic level, about four times what they were at the height of the pandemic. .)

Time spent in grocery stores and drugstores was slightly above Google’s baseline over the past month, suggesting that Canadians could do more grocery shopping at the supermarket to make up for the decrease in the number of restaurant meals. .

Time spent at home, meanwhile, fell from 20% in early May to 10% in mid-July to 8% on September 11.

Overall, all of this means that Canadians feel safer now than they did at the start of the pandemic, but also through most of the summer.

It would certainly make sense if the new coronavirus still slowed its spread across Canada – but other than Atlantic Canada and the territories, this is hardly the case.

The number of active cases in Canada has been increasing since the start of August and is more than double what it was a month ago, according to a count from CTV News. Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia have all started to re-enact some of the restrictions lifted earlier this summer. All four provinces show similar trends in Google data, with residents spending less time at home and more time in public than a month or two ago.

“We know what to do; we don’t necessarily do it as well as we could, ”Dr. Brian Conway, president and medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Center, told CTV News Channel on Sunday.

“Some people are making decisions… not to follow all of the public health recommendations, and that is leading to an increase in cases. “

IS IT QUARANTINE FATIGUE?

Due to the increase in the number of COVID-19 diagnoses and the decline in reopening, there is a growing belief that Canada is on the brink of a second wave of the pandemic.

Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease specialist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, told CTV News Channel on Sunday that she believed “some form of second wave” was already underway in Ontario and Quebec.

“We don’t know yet if it’s going to be a big wave or one of those smaller waves that we can control. It really, really depends on how people manage themselves, ”she said.

Dr Theresa Tam said this week that “now is the time to act”, noting that the daily number of new cases more accurately reflects how the company reacted to the virus two weeks ago than how it reacts today ‘hui.

Of course, the growing numbers do not come as a surprise to Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer. She warned in July that Canada could see a “regression” if too many Canadians continued to ignore public health advice, and warned in August that fall would be a “difficult time” due to cold weather and drought. back to school period. .

On the surface, something is wrong. Warnings from authorities have been constant and consistent, and are starting to come true – and yet Canadians are spending even more time in public, where contact with the virus is more likely.

One possible explanation is that quarantine fatigue has set in.

Also known as pandemic fatigue, response fatigue and many other terms, quarantine fatigue is essentially the idea that citizens are tired of the pandemic and no longer taking the necessary precautions to stop it.

This is why ‘we cannot let our guard down’ is such a common refrain from political and medical leaders – both in Europe, where the World Health Organization is now warning of fatigue. quarantine as cases skyrocket, and in Canada, where authorities hope to avoid the same scenario.

Barrett said Canadians “really need to take to heart” the advice of public health leaders, spend less time outside the home and limit their social circles to a few.

“If people are able to do the things that have already been suggested, maybe we can keep things under control,” she said.

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