Eastern Ontario Health Unit orders big box stores, grocery stores to set capacity limits for each department

OTTAWA — Just ahead of the Christmas holidays, big box stores and grocery stores in eastern Ontario are being told to implement capacity limits in departments and crowd control measures to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

Stores must also control lineups both inside and outside to ensure physical distancing measures are respected.

Eastern Ontario Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis issued a section 22 Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act for multi-department retail and grocery stores.

“With holiday shopping, we’re seeing large crowds in many stores, which increases the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at this critical time,” says Dr. Roumeliotis in a statement. “I have issued this Order to protect employees, business patrons and the broader community.”

The new order requires big box retail stores and grocery stores to ensure that a maximum number of patrons is established and clearly marked for each department, and that departments are staffed to ensure that the total number of patrons permitted is respected.

High traffic departments in multi-department stores must have their own capacity limits.

Stores must also ensure that the flow of patrons is enforced and that patrons congregating together or walking against the directions of the arrows are reminded to follow the rules.

Dr. Roumeliotis told reporters the health unit has received several complaints about overcrowding in stores.

In a statement, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit says in multi-department stores many people tend to crowd in one department disproportionately, mostly in grocery and pharmacy sections.

Stores must continue to respect capacity limits for the full store. 

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit will be increasing inspections of local businesses to ensure compliance with the new Order. The section 22 Order of the Health Protection and Promotion Act will come into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 19.

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit covers the area including Alexandria, Cornwall, Clarence-Rockland, Casselman, Hawkesbury and other areas of eastern Ontario.

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