Can Santa Claus still visit amid a pandemic?
TORONTO -- Face masks and physical distancing have become the new normal for billions of people living through the global novel coronavirus pandemic, but will Santa Claus be hindered by public health safeguards when it comes time to deliver presents to all the good boys and girls this Christmas Eve?
The North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD), which for decades has been tracking Santa's around-the-world journey, told CTVNews.ca that they have no reason to expect his operation will be disrupted this year.
"While NORAD is taking all the required precautions to ensure its personnel continue to safely operate and execute its continental defense mission, we do not have insight on the precautions Santa or his team are taking in light of the COVID situation," NORAD said in an emailed statement on Tuesday.
"However, we know that Santa has safely delivered presents to children around the world in previous pandemics. We are confident that this year will not be any different."
The Santa Claus Office, located in the Arctic Circle of Rovaniemi, Finland, closed its doors in late March due to COVID-19 but has since resumed operations.
Despite the uncertainty of a pandemic, the big man himself says Christmas will not be cancelled.
In a statement emailed to CTVNews.ca on Monday, Santa's Office said Mr. Claus has confirmed that this year's festivities will not be put on hold or postponed.
"Naturally, as with everyone else, Santa Claus is concerned about the problems caused by the coronavirus. One of the most wonderful, heart-warming aspects of Christmas is spending time together -- something that the pandemic is now putting restrictions on," the Santa Claus Office said.
The office said Santa's preparations for Christmas 2020 have gone "extremely well" and that he will not have to quarantine upon entering each country.
"Just like the years before this one, Santa Claus will not have a diplomatic passport, travel visa or doctor's certificate, not even a reindeer parking permit. He simply doesn’t need any of these, and he will therefore not need to stay in quarantine," the Santa Claus Office said.
While Father Christmas will still be able to shimmy down chimneys and leave gifts under children’s trees amid the pandemic, some governing authorities may require him to take certain precautions.
A spokesperson from the Public Health Agency of Canada told CTVNews.ca that Kris Kringle "as well as his elves, reindeer -- especially Rudolph, and any other staff" should consult with the various jurisdictions about local travel restrictions along their route.
"We advise people to contact provincial or territorial authorities regarding any upcoming visit (whether from the North Pole or otherwise) as requirements may vary slightly," the spokesperson said in an email.
However, in December 2008, Canada's then Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney formally awarded Canadian citizenship status to Santa Claus, which may help to ease some of his anticipated travel woes.
The Canada Revenue Agency also confirmed in 2018 that Mr. and Mrs. Claus (known as "the Taxpayers") are in fact Canadian citizens who reside in the North Pole.
The agency told CTVNews.ca that there has been no change to the Taxpayers' status as they "remain Canadian citizens, and have accounts in good standing with the CRA."
"The Taxpayers did submit their 2019 return electronically by the extended deadline, ensuring the continuance of any benefits that they receive," the statement read.
The agency would not confirm whether or not the Clauses have the papers to prove their citizenship, citing privacy reasons, but confirmed that their operations -- Kringle Industries -- has been classified as a Level 1 essential service amid the pandemic.
Governments around the world previously declared the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy as essential workers as well, exempting them from most health directives.
However, the CRA said Santa should still confirm with Health Canada about safety protocols.
While the way he does his job will be different this year, Santa's Office said he will still get it done.
"As the world's guardian of goodness and kindness, it is only natural for Santa Claus to respect and follow all public health recommendations, social distancing rules, and the proper use of reindeer back scratchers," the office said.
Additionally, the Santa Claus Office said children hoping to make it on Saint Nicholas' nice list should also follow public health guidelines to ensure everyone stays safe.
"This year, being good can be done in different ways. One excellent way is keeping in contact with friends, relatives and loved ones in a safe way," the office said.
"What's more, this is also a wonderful opportunity for us all to try and bring happiness and joy to people who need it the most. This takes being good to a whole new level!"