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Nearly half of Canadians visited friends and family over the holidays: poll

Last Updated Jan 5, 2021 at 7:05 am PDT

Farm decorated with Christmas lights. (iStock Photo)

New poll finds close to half of respondents admit to visiting family, friends over the holidays despite the pandemic

Number of people who strayed outside their household over holidays a little lower in B.C. than national average

Canadians were urged to limit their contacts over the December holidays but it appears not everyone heeded the message

OTTAWA — We were asked to stay home and not socialize over the holidays, but it seems a whole lot of Canadians still strayed outside their immediate household over the past few weeks.

According to the latest poll from Leger, 48 per cent admit to visiting family and friends through what is traditionally a very social season.

In, B.C. that number is a little lower, but 39 per cent in this province still say they did it at least once.

That was despite strong messaging from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to stick to your immediate household through the holiday season.

“This is a challenging time. I know that,” said Dr. Henry during a regular briefing in early December. “If you’re used to having multiple family members come over for Christmas and getting together and having those large dinners together–now you need to do it remotely. This Christmas is, and these holidays are going to be different and they need to be different, but we have to recognize we’re not alone in this.”

Public health officials across the country had pleaded with Canadians to sharply limit their contacts during the holidays to avoid massive spikes in COVID-19 cases.

But it appears something gave, according to Leger vice-president Christian Bourque.

“Usually we Canadians are sort of much more, I would say, disciplined when it comes to going by what governments are recommending in terms of our behaviour, but over the holidays, apparently, it was sort of tougher on Canadians,” he said.

Of those who did visit with friends or family outside their homes, 34 per cent did once, 12 per cent did two or three times, and two per cent did it often.

COVID-19 case numbers are rising, and the poll suggests 62 per cent surveyed have little to no confidence in Canada’s ability to limit the spread of COVID-19 over the next few weeks.

That pessimism is notable, considering that before the holidays, polls suggested Canadians were feeling optimistic about 2021.

But stories in the waning days of 2020 about delays in vaccine rollouts, climbing case counts and news that many politicians left the country over the holidays despite limits on travel, seem to be turning Canadians’ moods, Bourque said.

“I think it’s gotten people to be more skeptical about how much we can do in the short term.”

Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies carried out the survey of 1,506 Canadians between Dec. 30, 2020 and Jan. 3, 2021.

The poll was conducted online, and cannot be assigned a margin of error as online surveys aren’t considered truly random.