Passport Canada has deleted a social-media post encouraging Canadians to apply for passports if they are planning a winter vacation, which was tweeted even as the government continues to dissuade Canadians from booking non-essential travel.
“Are you planning a winter vacation but don’t have a valid passport? Don’t wait, apply now!” Passport Canada tweeted Friday via Hootsuite Inc., a social-media manager that can schedule tweets in advance.
Twitter users were quick to point out that the only places they were visiting were the grocery store or another room in their home.
“This tweet should not have been issued and was deleted at 4 p.m. on Sunday," said Megan Fulton, spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada. “The tweet was meant to ensure Canadians would be aware of their passport situation and apply early.”
The government’s current travel advisory says to avoid non-essential travel outside the country until further notice and specifies to avoid all cruise-ship travel outside Canada. The notice on the government’s travel website warns that people may have difficulty returning to Canada as other governments implement travel restrictions and that there are fewer international transportation options.
Countries that have opened their borders to tourists could impose travel restrictions suddenly in the event of an increase of cases of COVID-19, the website said. It added that there are no plans to offer repatriation flights to those who decide to travel despite advisories and that they may have to remain abroad longer than expected.
Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner said she believes it is long past due that the government come up with a plan for the hospitality and tourism industry that involves Canadian travel. She said it would likely involve rapid testing, such as the program in Alberta where international travellers arriving at the Calgary airport, or crossing from Montana at the land crossing, have the option to take a COVID-19 test. This allows them to shorten their time in quarantine.
“I think that having an agency tweet out without talking about that, I think for that entire sector, it was a bit surprising,” Ms. Rempel Garner said.
“The other thing is, there’s been a lot of media about the fact that the Public Health Agency of Canada has given a lot of conflicting advice since Day 1 and I think that that’s leading to a lot of confusion among Canadians and I worry about what that means for public-health outcomes,” she added.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu was asked by reporters Monday about mixed messaging from Ottawa and the provinces.
Ms. Hajdu said it is important to listen to local public-health authorities who are “closest to the ground” and know the number of cases that they have in their region.
“I’ll be very clear. Again, there are some overarching messages that Canadians can use to protect ourselves during the next several months, which are going to be difficult,” she said, such as physical distancing, reducing the number of gatherings and social events, washing hands and wearing a mask.
NDP MP and public safety critic Jack Harris said it’s important that the government have consistent messaging and that the tweet from Passport Canada was “obviously not consistent” with the current advice.
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