A character being called "Mr. Covidhead" is shown in this screengrab taken from a Government of Alberta video as part of its campaign to remind Albertans how stealthy and fast COVID-19 can spread through any social gathering. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Government of Alberta, covidloves.ca *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Nightmare on COVID street: Corona-headed party provocateur stars in new Alberta ads

EDMONTON — Alberta is rolling out ads showing a party animal with a head that looks like the novel coronavirus to warn of the dangers of COVID-19 this holiday season.

The two-fisted eggnog-slurping visitor is part of a $2-million ad campaign to remind Albertans how stealthy and fast the virus can spread at social gatherings.

Two 30-second ads to run on TV and across social media platforms depict a man with an oversized grey head spiked with red fuzz and sporting menacing eyes and a leering smile of misshapen teeth.

In one ad, Mr. Covidhead, with a beer gut and Hawaiian shirt, arrives to dangerously dance, hug and super-spread the night away at a house party.

In the other, he is the dweeby relative in the ugly Christmas sweater, hanging out with kids and grandparents, and making sure he gets his mitts on every last plate and pot passed around the festive table.

It’s part of a larger social awareness and information campaign anchored to a website titled covidloves.ca.

“These ads reinforce that every social and family gathering has the potential to include COVID-19 on the guest list,” Alberta Health spokesman Tom McMillan said in a statement Friday.

“We’re launching this campaign because COVID-19 is serious and we need to use every tool possible and reach people every way we can. Lives depend on our ability to bend down the curve and reduce the spread.”

Alberta introduced tougher measures this week that sharply reduce or close businesses and shutter libraries, recreation centres and casinos to try to reduce soaring cases of COVID-19.

Social gatherings of any size indoors and out are banned. Outdoor skaters, skiers, walkers and runners must follow health orders to keep two metres apart.

The restrictions run through the new year.

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