The COVID pandemic has had dramatic implications for the mobility and proximity of all Canadians. In this new Innovation Policy Lab report, the authors Gabriel Cavalli, Brennan Lake, Anita M. McGahan and Emanuele Pepe set out to answer several key questions, including: How did Canadians react to the restrictions on mobility that were implemented in March, 2020, and subsequently to contain the spread of COVID? How did Canadians respond to the lifting of restrictions? Has mobility recovered to pre-pandemic levels? How did the proximity of Canadians to one another change with restrictions on mobility? Has contact recovered to pre-pandemic levels with the lifting of restrictions?

The purpose of this report is to describe changes in behavior for the Canadian public, policymakers, and leaders focused on the immediate and lasting impact of COVID social-distancing restrictions on Canadian life.  The analysis is the result of a six-month study led by researchers from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy working in tandem with partners from the ISI Foundation and from the Data for Good program at Cuebiq.

Using anonymized cell phone data, the researchers were able to determine estimates of mobility and proximity of Canadians by province, territory, census division, and major city since the first COVID-19 restrictions took effect.

The results? Canadians’ mobility has largely recovered to pre-restriction levels in many areas, and people are primarily traveling locally within and between co-located cities, with a significant decline in air travel. However, Canadians’ proximity has not recovered to pre-restriction levels. Although Canadians may be more mobile than early in the pandemic, they largely continue to avoid interacting with others, with results varying somewhat by location.

Much more research is needed to understand these changes in Canadian society.  What is clear even at this early stage is that the pandemic has had nuanced and significant impact on the ways in which Canadians interact

Read the full report: Mobility and Proximity of Canadians During the COVID-19 Pandemic