British Columbia

No reusable bags, say B.C. health officials in advice to grocery stores amid COVID-19

Grocery stores and other food retailers shouldn't allow customers to use their own reusable bags or boxes, according to new guidance from the B.C. Ministry of Health on how retailers should help curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Guidance also clarifies that more than 50 people can be inside a store, if it's big enough

Some shoppers and stores are already taking precautions recommended by B.C. health officials in their advisory to food retailers. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Grocery stores and other food retailers shouldn't allow customers to use their own reusable bags or boxes, according to new guidance from the B.C. Ministry of Health on how retailers should help curb the spread of COVID-19.

That's part of three pages of guidance released by the ministry, along with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, to food retailers. In particular, a ministry statement said, there have been a lot of questions from the sector about whether Dr. Bonnie Henry's order prohibiting more than 50 people from gathering applies to grocery stores.

The advisory clarifies that more than 50 people can be in a large grocery store at once, provided that proper physical distancing — staying at least two metres away from anyone outside your household — is possible.

The advisory suggests the rule of thumb that retailers should allow a maximum of one person — customer or staff — per four square metres (43 sq. ft.) of retail space.

The guidance also lays out steps health officials advise every food retailer and grocery store to take, including:

  • No reusable bags or boxes; retailers are advised to provide clean carry-out bags.
  • No sales of items from bulk bins, unless they are dispensed by staff or gravity-feed bins.
  • Place markers such as tape or cones to provide customers with visible cues to space themselves out while in line.
  • Clear signs showing the maximum number of customers allowed.
  • Enhanced cleaning of areas including pay stations, bagging areas and carts or baskets between each use.

A full list of the 18 points of guidance can be found here. If customers show up in a grocery store with cold, influenza or COVID-19-like symptoms, stores are advised to ask them to leave and have them order food by delivery instead, where possible.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.  

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