Canadian kids anxiously awaiting a visit with Santa Claus at their local mall will have to settle for a very different experience this year.
One of Canada’s largest mall operators is cancelling in-person Santa visits amid increasing COVID-19 cases in provinces including Ontario.
Cadillac Fairview Corporation Ltd. said Friday that it is suspending physical experiences with Santa in all 19 of its shopping centres, including the Eaton Centre and Fairview Mall in Toronto, and Vancouver’s Pacific Centre.
“While we know this may be disappointing for families who look forward to this annual tradition, we firmly believe this is the best decision,” Craig Flannagan, Cadillac Fairview’s vice-president of marketing, said in a statement.
Cadillac Fairview had been offering in-person Santa visit reservations as recently as Thursday. It had planned to limit visits with Santa to nine people at a time for a maximum of five minutes and roll out a mandatory mask policy and sanitizations between guests.
Cadillac Fairview will instead offer Santa storytime sessions in French and English on Facebook for families and will allow people to book one-on-one video chats with the jolly man from the North Pole.
The switch, which will not result in any job losses, came after extensive conversations with government officials and consumers, said Flannagan.
“Similar to what we’ve seen with other important events like weddings and birthday parties, we believe this temporary shift to online is the responsible thing to do in a very different year,” he said.
The same day as Cadillac Fairview revisited its plans, Ontario reported 1,396 new cases of COVID-19 and linked 17 new deaths in the province to the virus.
Cadillac Fairview has already implemented physical distancing and traffic flow measures, requested that staff wear personal protective equipment and has increased cleaning of surfaces that are touched frequently.