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Planning travel? Think again, feds urge in coronavirus ad blitz

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: WHO advises against travelling and large gatherings during holiday season' Coronavirus: WHO advises against travelling and large gatherings during holiday season
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus offered advice for people celebrating Christmas this year amid the pandemic and warned against non-essential travel. – Nov 30, 2020

Thinking of taking a trip during the coronavirus pandemic?

Think again, a federal advertising campaign worth a total of $850,000 is urging Canadians.

Read more: Trudeau urges compassion amid worsening coronavirus cases in Christmas message

The advertising campaign began targeting Canadians online in November and is set to continue until March 2021, with efforts ebbing and flowing to coincide with periods when officials expect more Canadians will be considering travelling.

For example, the campaign launch in November targeted snowbirds.

“Elements of the campaign were released in November when older adults typically consider travelling down south,” Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Jason Kung said in an email.

“The campaign leverages both earned and paid media on various digital platforms, such as Facebook, search engine marketing and digital advertisements on various travel websites, to reach multiple target audiences. At this time, there are no plans for advertising on television or radio.”

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Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: How this holiday season will make us appreciate the future' Coronavirus: How this holiday season will make us appreciate the future
Coronavirus: How this holiday season will make us appreciate the future – Dec 19, 2020

News of the advertising campaign, first reported by CBC News, comes as public health officials plead with Canadians to stay home and limit their gatherings over the holidays to curb the spread of the virus.

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The coronavirus is spreading rapidly across the country, leading provincial leaders and health officials to implement varying levels of new restrictions from Alberta and Manitoba to Ontario and Quebec.

Southern Ontario, which is seeing exploding case numbers, is going into a partial lockdown on Boxing Day for 28 days, despite urging from health officials in the province that it should’ve started earlier.

More than half a million Canadians have now been infected with the virus, which causes a range of symptoms from none at all to respiratory distress, neurological issues, blood clots and strokes.

Nearly 15,000 Canadians have also died from the virus.

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Read more: Canada could see ‘grotesque’ spike in coronavirus cases after holidays, expert says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged in a Christmas message shared online on Thursday that this holiday will be a difficult one for many, given the need to avoid gatherings with those outside immediate households and keep physically distanced to prevent the spread of the virus.

“This time of year is supposed to be full of joy, light and family traditions. But this Christmas is different. Families aren’t getting together for big dinners, and friends aren’t stopping by for cookies and eggnog,” he said.

“This isn’t the holiday season we wanted — I know. But here’s the thing: even though this year’s Christmas traditions will be different, we can and should give thanks for everything that unites us.”

COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, thrives in close-contact situations where people are indoors, breathing and speaking in the same spaces, for a prolonged period of time.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam also urged Canadians to be careful.

“As we head into the holidays, this is a perilous time,” she said in a series of tweets earlier in the week.

“That means we must celebrate holidays differently this year and carry on with our public health practices through the coming weeks and months.”

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While Global Affairs Canada travel advice warns against any non-essential travel outside the country, the federal government has said it will not prohibit Canadians from free movement, which is a Charter right.

If Canadians choose to leave, they have a right to return but must quarantine once they get back.

The United States is currently seeing out-of-control spread of the virus in its population, which is also surging once more in many European countries.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: U.S. sets new single-day record for COVID-19 deaths' Coronavirus: U.S. sets new single-day record for COVID-19 deaths
Coronavirus: U.S. sets new single-day record for COVID-19 deaths – Dec 24, 2020

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