The Ministry of Health has released a set of guidelines for the retail food and grocery sector after issuing a provincial health order that bans gatherings of 50 or more people in B.C.
This order would hold the owner, occupier or operator of establishments at which these gatherings took place accountable and responsible for breaching the health order.
When asked for clarification from the retail food and grocery industry, the ministry clarified that the ban does not directly apply to them.
“This means that, for example, in large grocery stores where it is feasible to have more than 50 people present at one time, it is permissible to do so provided that appropriate physical distancing can be maintained,” reads the statement.
Stores are advised to calculate the number of people they can allow inside by making sure that at any given time, one person per 2 meters squared or 4 square meters of retail floor space is allowed to be in the store.
In addition, the province has issued a list of guidelines specific to grocery stores and retail food stores to ensure that they continue to provide safe access to essential goods.
This includes an enhanced sanitization process, the provision of clean carry out bags, disallowing customers to use their own reusable bags, cones or tape markers placed every two metres to provide customers with visible queues that support physical distancing, among others.
Stores are also asked to offer online or telephone food and grocery orders with delivery or pick up services as alternatives to shopping in person.
The full list of guidelines for retail and grocery stores during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found at this website.
So far, multiple grocery chains have installed plexiglass at counters, and started offering designated hours for elderly and immunocompromised shoppers to make sure everyone has safe access to essential goods.
The federal government recently announced an $82 billion assistance package for Canadians and businesses struggling financially during the global pandemic. This was followed by a $5 billion relief package announced by the B.C. provincial government.
Trudeau also announced a 75% wage subsidy for small and medium sized businesses and a new Canada Emergency Business Account which will allow banks to offer $40,000 loans to businesses, interest-free for the first year.
The provincial government also announced the indefinite suspension of all in-person classes at K-12 schools in B.C., closure of all bars and restaurants, and a moratorium on evictions among other steps to enforce social distancing measures.
Canada has tightened its borders and is denying entry to people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents in Canada.
U.S. citizens are no longer an exception to this rule, and non-essential travel between U.S. and Canada has been temporarily banned as of March 21st. Moreover international flights have now been restricted to international airports in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Calgary.
The BCCDC has set up a 2019 novel coronavirus telephone information line at 1-833-784-4397 for those who have further questions about this disease.
Anyone concerned that they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus, should contact their primary care provider, local public health office, or call 8-1-1.
The Province has also created the 1-888-COVID-19 line to connect British Columbians needing non-medical information about the coronavirus pandemic.
As of the time of publication, the total number of COVID-19 patients worldwide has risen to 770,165.
Nearly 37,000 people have died from the illness and 160,243 have made a full recovery.