Ottawa

T&T Supermarket to require customers wear face coverings

The Canada-wide chain will introduce a mandatory mask policy on May 11, claiming customers and employees want a policy more in line with how Asian countries have handled the COVID-19 crisis.

Canada-wide policy will begin May 11 at the chain's grocery stores

T&T Supermarket has been checking customers' temperatures at the entrance to its Ottawa store since April 2020, as part of the chain's COVID-19 precautions. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

The T&T Supermarket chain will be bringing in a mandatory mask policy for shoppers Monday, making it one of the first retailers in Ottawa to take that step to halt the spread of COVID-19.

The Asian grocery chain, which operates independently but is owned by Loblaw, has also been screening customers temperatures since April 20.

In a statement, CEO Tina Lee said its customers and employees expect a response to COVID-19 that more closely resembles measures taken in Asia.

"We believe wearing a face mask or face covering is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19," Lee said in the statement.

While the chain — which has more than two dozen locations in Ontario, B.C. and Alberta — recommends a disposable non-medical mask, Lee wrote that other coverings would be accepted, although not "pulling up your jacket collar over your mouth."

Sheila Lightfoot, a T&T shopper in Ottawa who was already wearing a disposable mask Tuesday, said she's reassured by the fact the chain's been ahead of many others in its coronavirus response.

"I'm not particularly worried about catching corona, but I do like to see that where I'm shopping they're taking measures for people who are ... more concerned," Lightfoot said.

Steve Grammatakis put on his mask before shopping for fish on May 5, 2020, at the T&T Supermarket in south Ottawa. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Steve Grammatakis, who also had his own mask, said he doesn't see a problem with the stricter measures at T&T stores.

"I never thought it was too much, I value my safety more than anything," Grammatakis said. 

'Food is a necessity'

Michael Bryant, executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the patchwork of rules at different retailers — especially grocery stores — may mean the government will eventually have to step in.

Bryant said mask policies could inadvertently discriminate against people who cannot afford masks.

"Normally, you could say that free-market capitalism would just take care of this. The stores that were more accessible maybe would get more traffic, or maybe the stores that had higher safety standards would get more traffic," Bryant said.

"This isn't normal circumstances and food is a necessity. I believe governments should be, at a certain point, stepping in and deciding whether or not it's appropriate for a store to be freelancing."

Bryant also said temperature checks must also respect an individual's right to privacy, and people should be made aware of what information they're consenting to share.

T&T said it would refuse entry to someone if they had a high temperature or refused the thermometer-gun check. They said staff take the temperature at an angle so no one can see the result, and that it's not announced or recorded.

Loblaw Companies said it's monitoring feedback on T&T's policies.

WATCH: How stores are trying to keep shoppers safe

Shoppers told CBC News that the measures some stores are taking have them feeling safer, though precautions aren’t consistent from company to company. 1:06

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