Coronavirus: Major Canadian grocers to offer special hours for seniors to stock up

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With grocery stores across Canada often crowded and shelves lacking staples in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, some major Canadian grocery retailers have announced special plans to ensure some of the most vulnerable will be able to get supplies.

Both Loblaws and Sobeys have said they will introduce dedicated hours to allow seniors and those with disabilities to shop as a response to the recent spike in purchasing created by consumers worried about the effects of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

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“We are prepared for this, and to support those most in need, we are opening some of our stores early with dedicated hours for seniors and people living with disabilities to come before the crowds,” executive chairman of Loblaw Companies Limited Galen Weston said in a letter to PC Optimum members on Wednesday.

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Loblaws-owned Zehrs stores in the Kitchener area have announced that they will open an hour early on Wednesday morning to seniors and those with disabilities.

“The store will be cleaned and sanitized to allow our senior shoppers to get the supplies they need in a less crowded and stress-free environment,” the posts have noted.

Similarly, a Loblaws Valumart store in the Kingston area has also announced it will open a half-hour early three days a week beginning Thursday to meet the needs of seniors and those with disabilities.

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In addition to Zehrs, Loblaws also controls stores that operate under various banners, including No Frills, Real Canadian Superstore, Fortinos, Valumart, Freshmart and Provigo, among others.

In a letter posted to Twitter on Tuesday, Michael Medline, president and CEO of Empire Company Limited, announced that similar plans for Sobeys stores will begin on Thursday.

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He noted that a franchise in the Edmonton area recently launched an event called the Beloved Golden Shopping Hour, which earned it high praise.

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Medline said this idea has spread to other stores across the country and will soon be nationwide.

“The government has made it clear that those most at risk, including seniors, should stay at home and encouraged family and friends to help support them during this terrible coronavirus,” he wrote. “But for those that need to get out for essential supplies, let’s make shopping a little bit easier.”

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Medline says most Sobeys stores will devote their opening hour to those who require extra attention.

Sobeys stores operate under various banners, including Price Chopper, Foodland, FreshCo and IGA (in eastern Canada).

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In Western Canada, Save-On-Foods has also announced it will be making changes to its hours, as well as adding a seniors-only shopping hour.

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The chain, which operates 178 stores in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Yukon Territory, will change its hours starting March 19 to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It will also be holding a special shopping hour for seniors and people with disabilities from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. each day.

Limiting the hours will give the teams at Save-On-Foods additional time to sanitize, restock the shelves, and give its workers a chance to recharge, a release from the company said Wednesday.

“It is not business as usual and my amazing team of 21,000 team members has a big job to do as they work around the clock to replenish the items our customers need,” said Save-On-Foods president Darrell Jones in a news release.

In Winnipeg, some local chains have also made similar announcements.

Dakota Family Foods, Food Fare and Heritage Co-ops have all announced they will have opening hours especially for those more susceptible to COVID-19.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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