Manitobans weary of restrictions: Free Press poll Majority thought pandemic would last only six months, survey reveals

Sunday will be a painful Mother's Day for Ruth Zimmerman.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/05/2021 (692 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Sunday will be a painful Mother’s Day for Ruth Zimmerman.

Her 76-year-old mother Jean died in December after contracting COVID-19 while being treated for diabetes complications at St. Boniface Hospital.

How it works

The survey of 800 Manitoba adults was conducted from April 23 to May 2 using Leger’s research panel.

Leger, using the results of the 2016 federal census, weighted the results using age, gender, and region to create a representative sample of the population.

If the survey had been conducted through a probability sample, the margin of error would have been plus or minus 3.46 per cent 19 times out of 20.

“We followed all the rules and she got it anyway,” Zimmerman said Thursday. “I look back on my mom’s last year and we didn’t see her as much as I would have liked.

“If I knew what I know now I would have seen her more, even if I broke the rules.”

As the pandemic drags into its 15th month, Zimmerman isn’t alone with her feelings.

A Winnipeg Free Press poll conducted by Leger a few days before the explosion of COVID-19 cases this week found that while a majority of Manitobans continue to follow public-health orders, 31 per cent, or about three in 10, admit they haven’t always done so.

As well, 63 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement, “I am getting sick and tired of all the health restrictions and limits on where I can go and who I can see. These rules can’t end soon enough for me.”

Manitobans aren’t particularly skilled at predicting the future, the poll revealed. More than half (56 per cent) of respondents, said they recalled thinking the pandemic was going to last six months at most. That number rose to 65 per cent for those between the ages of 18 and 34.

There is a significant amount of apprehension about what life will look like going forward, as 75 per cent said they’ll limit interactions with others and stay away from crowded places — even if permitted by public-health officials — because of variant strains of the virus. But 39 per cent said once they’ve had a shot they’re heading back to their normal lives and seeing family and friends again.

Leger’s Andrew Enns said he wasn’t really surprised by any of the findings.

“In modern history, there is no precedence for the length of this lockdown.”
– Esyllt Jones, a history professor at the University of Manitoba

“It’s the COVID fatigue,” he said.

“When you think back to March 2020, how long did you think it would go? Well, with 56 per cent saying six months or less, you have, by now, those… who are getting really impatient.”

That makes enforcing restrictions challenging.

“They say you have to follow the rules just a little longer, but it is tough for people,” Enns said. “Sometimes it just falls on deaf ears now. The notion about don’t gather outside your household, well I know people are doing that now.”

Manitobans' post-pandemic priority: restaurants

MIKE DEAL / FREE PRESS FILES "We appreciate the support," said Shaun Jeffrey, CEO of the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association.


Hospitality beat seniors care and health care in a poll that asked Manitobans to rate their post-pandemic priority.

A Winnipeg Free Press poll conducted by Leger found 39 per cent of Manitobans say the hospitality and tourism sector should be the government's highest priority post-pandemic.

Eighteen per cent said it should be growing the economy; 15 per cent backed investing in long term care for seniors; 11 per cent said paying down the deficit created by the pandemic; and just three per cent said health care.

Shaun Jeffrey, CEO of the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said he wasn't surprised by the high level of support for his industry.

Read full story

The survey may offer clues as to the reason for the level of pushback against health orders in some rural communities.

“While inside the city, 53 per cent felt the pandemic would be done in six months, outside the city 60 per cent thought that,” he said.

Esyllt Jones, a history professor at the University of Manitoba who has studied the flu epidemic of 1918-19, said newspaper accounts at the time didn’t indicate whether people were getting fed up with restrictions as the situation wore on.

“It wasn’t an option then to work from home,” said Jones. “There were school closures but they were relatively short-lived. “And public health was still trying to work on coercive measures. They were placarding peoples’ homes. That’s what they did with infectious disease at the time.”

But, similar to the current situation, church leaders supported restrictions at the beginning but advocated opening up things later on, she said.

“In modern history, there is no precedence for the length of this lockdown,” she said.

Dr. Anand Kumar, an ICU physician, said while he wants to see another hard lockdown, he agrees everyone has grown weary of life during COVID-19.

“I think it’s because of the constant restrictions which are consistent with this government,” said Kumar. “If you are trying not to overload the health-care system but release restrictions before the numbers are low enough to go completely back to normal, what do you expect?

“This is the expected consequence of it. Manitobans have every right to be tired.”

Kumar said instead of a “relatively normal summer,” he believes Manitobans should now brace themselves for stricter measures in the coming weeks.

“ICU numbers are spiking now,” he said.

David Kron, executive director of the Cerebral Palsy Association of Manitoba, said even vulnerable people are finding it tough to keep following the public-health orders.

“We certainly can relate to these things in the poll,” said Kron. “Just myself, I’m tired…. why aren’t things changing?

“People with disabilities can be at high risk, but I totally understand why people feel this way because they are tired. I know some who have literally not left home since it started.”

John Dobbin, whose elderly mother and father both got COVID during an outbreak at the Victoria Hospital last year, says he’ll visit both Sunday at a personal-care home, but it will be more of a wellness check than a Mother’s Day celebration.

“I’ll be dressed in a gown, mask, go through the checks at the front door,” said Dobbin. “It is tough. I am exhausted afterwards.

“I’d like them to have more freedom of movement, but I’ve got too much at stake with them. I know no one wants to hurt their mom. People are saying they are sick and tired, but there are worse things. You could be sick with COVID.”

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.


Updated on Thursday, May 6, 2021 7:11 PM CDT: Adds related items

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