Local grocery stores are joining the movement to open hours exclusively for seniors and those who need more social distancing.
Shoppers Drug Mart, Quality Foods, Real Canadian Superstore all have messages on their corporate websites saying that they would be offering hours of operation for those who are more at risk of infection.
Save-on-Foods has also announced it will be reducing store hours effective March 19 to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Locations will also have an hour of shopping each day from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. designated for seniors, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations to shop in a less hectic environment and to allow for social distancing.
Noel Hayward, president of Quality Foods, explained that all stores would be switching to 7 a.m. starts as of Monday, and that the first hour of operation should be used for seniors and people who need more social distancing while they shop.
“Over the last few days we had several customers suggest that we have an early shopping time for seniors and people that needed more social space to be a bit safer for shopping. We’re instituting that right away,” Hayward said. “One of the protocols that we’re doing every night is disinfecting our shopping carts. First thing in the morning would be the safest time, it’s also one of the off-peak hours of the day.”
The new hours are not a special seniors promotion, and the store staff will not be checking IDs of people who are coming to the stores. Instead, Hayward hopes people will respect the decision and allow people to shop safely if needed.
“We don’t want to be the age police and we don’t want to have a senior come and shop and say ‘hey, that guy’s not a senior.’ He might have diabetes or cancer treatment or a compromised immune system,” Hayward said.
“We trust that our customers will respect it,” he added. “We’re all in this together. It’s going to be a marathon, I don’t see this as being a two week or a four week thing, I think this’ll be a long, long thing.”
Grocery stores have seen a large uptick in sales in the last week, which has caused multiple instances of localized scarcity. However, the supply chains in Canada and on Vancouver Island remain strong, and officials see no reason that the situation would change. Hayward explained that the centre of the stores, where packaged foods and food products are sold, have been hardest hit. Meat and produce are second most. However, Hayward expects that to calm down in the next few weeks.
“What tends to happen and what happened in China after their outbreak is other items will tend to slow down as more people are at home,” he said.
To ensure the safety of customers, bulk and unpackaged items have been pulled from shelves. Bottle returns have also been stopped at the stores, and cashiers are mandated to disinfect tills every half hour, though some are doing it more often.
Hayward hopes people respect the hours set out for those who need it, and reminds that other non-peak hours are available for people who are not in need of extra social isolation.
Different stores have instituted slightly different policies. Check with local stores to see opening hours and local policies as they pertain to this topic.