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Manitobans slowly returning to normal life, spending time outside, Google data reveals

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As the provincial government moves into Phase 2 of reopening during the coronavirus pandemic, new data shows Manitobans continue to find themselves in the middle of the pack when it comes to physical distancing in Canada.

Internet search engine company Google has released its latest batch of data tracking what Canadians have been up to — and where they’ve been going — as lockdown measures have been implemented throughout the country.

To compile the research, Google used location data —as well as its own repository of information — to track percentage changes in movement across the country. The baseline average was culled from January to early February, before widespread social-distancing directives went into effect. Google's COVID-19 Community Mobility Report covers the period from Feb. 15 through May 25.

The data indicates things are — in many respects — slowly returning to normal in Manitoba.

Trips to parks and outdoor spaces have been a crucial resource for Canadians living through the public health measures, according to the data — and Manitoba was no exception.

Manitoba registered a 94 per cent jump in visits to parks and other outdoor recreation spaces over its January baseline in the latest batch of data. The spike is likely the result of warm spring weather and the loosening of lockdown measures.

The data indicates that when people are not at home they are mostly spending time outside, which is good news for public health officials, as research indicates the virus is less likely to spread outdoors.

These insights could help planners and policy-makers who are currently preparing for potential future outbreaks of COVID-19.

Visits to transit facilities continue to remain very low in Manitoba, registering 50 per cent below average during the pandemic’s first three months. The latest data indicates transit use is 45 per cent below the baseline with few signs of recovery in sight.

Manitobans also appear to be making consistent weekend visits to their workplaces, which is potentially explained by people going to pick up supplies or equipment when it is expected fewer co-workers will be present.

On the whole, workplace visits are down 38 per cent from the baseline average, while overall time spent at home is 12 per cent above baseline.

Visits to retail and recreation locations are returning to normal at a slow and steady pace. A week before Phase 2 of reopening began Monday, visits to those locations registered 12 per cent below the baseline average.

However, there was a spike in visits to retail and recreation during the Easter long weekend, which registered a 30 per cent increase. Visits to grocery stores and pharmacies also jumped 60 per cent.

At a time when the public was still being told to practise social distancing, the province’s shopping rules forced people to visit many of those locations over the course of two days, instead of spreading the congestion over four. As a result, mobility data for Manitobans fluctuated wildly by 80 percentage points throughout the long weekend.

On April 9, the day before Good Friday, the mobility rate registered 21 per cent above the baseline average. Meanwhile, the rates for Good Friday and Easter Sunday were 63 per cent below the baseline.

As has been seen throughout the pandemic, the latest data places Manitoba in the middle of the pack when compared to other Canadian provinces.

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

michael.pereira@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @__m_pereira

Michael Pereira

Michael Pereira
Data journalist

Michael Pereira is a data journalist and developer who spends his days pulling data from (sometimes unwilling) sources, extracting meaning for readers and producing graphics that tell a story.

Read full biography

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

Read full biography

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