Canadians almost universally believe physical distancing will help slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Yet one in four admit to not doing it as much as they should, according to an Ipsos poll for Global News.
The results come after repeated urging by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and public health officials for people to “go home and stay home” last month, and after several premiers released modelling this week that show thousands could die from the virus by the end of the month.
Trudeau was asked by a journalist at his daily briefing on Wednesday whether there are any further tools he would consider using to enforce social distancing or punish those who break the rules.
He said the government is continually evaluating the situation.
“Unfortunately we do see that there are some people who are not choosing to follow these instructions,” he said.
“We continue to impress upon everyone that we need to do what is necessary to get through this as quickly and safely as possible. We will continually work with cities and jurisdictions on measures they may feel are necessary.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, the latest to release provincial modelling numbers, have both used the projections to urge residents to take the danger of the virus seriously.
But while the message seems to be getting through that social distancing reduces the infection rate, the message isn’t necessarily changing behaviour.
Ninety-five per cent of Canadians say they believe social distancing will slow the infections and 72 per cent say they’re confident the health care system will not be overwhelmed.
Only 63 per cent say they are confident that most Canadians are taking social distancing seriously, with 37 per cent saying they do not believe that’s the case.
And of the 26 per cent of respondents who say they are not following strict social distancing measures, that drops down to 19 per cent among those over the age of 55 and to 27 per cent for those aged 35 to 54.
Those numbers rose to 32 per cent for those between the ages of 18 and 34.
Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos, said he expects those who report not following social distancing fall into two categories: those like essential workers who cannot distance as strictly as non-essential workers, and those who feel like the rules don’t apply to them.
“There’s people who will have ideological predisposition to not think that government should be having this much control over our lives,” he said.
“I would expect it’s those two groups of people: the larger probably being the people who feel that they’re doing their best to avoid the situation, but because of the work or other responsibilities, they are incapable of living up to what they see as the standard.”
Older Canadians have the highest risk of dying from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. But COVID-19 has also killed Canadians in their 20s and 30s.
Roughly 10 to 15 per cent of those under the age of 50 who get infected end up with moderate to severe symptoms, according to the World Health Organization.
As it stands now, all travellers returning to Canada are legally required to go into quarantine for 14 days once they arrive back in the country. That means no going outside for exercise, no walking the dog, no grocery shopping and no doing errands.
Anyone who has tested positive must do the same.
But although the invocation of the Quarantine Act makes those legal requirements, there have been repeated questions about whether law enforcement and public officials can actually enforce those rules.
There have been cases across the country of snowbirds returning from the U.S. — now the global epicentre of the pandemic — only to stop by grocery stores on their way home.
One Vancouver Island couple refused to self-isolate after returning from international travel but appear not to have faced any penalties for that refusal.
All Canadians, even those who have not travelled abroad or not been experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, have been ordered not to leave their homes except for essential business like getting groceries, and to try to limit that to only once a week.
Going for a daily walk is also permitted so long as individuals keep six feet away from anyone else.
Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.”
This Ipsos poll on behalf of Global News was an online survey of 1,006 Canadians conducted between April 3 and 7. The results were weighted to better reflect the composition of the adult Canadian population, according to census data. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.