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Coronavirus: B.C. grocery stores must have hand sanitizer stations, enforce distancing

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B.C. grocery stores must have hand sanitizer stations, provide clean carry-out bags and enforce physical distancing measures as they continue to operate through the novel coronavirus pandemic, the province said Sunday.

Those rules and others were issued as the government attempted to clarify how food and grocery retailers can operate under provincial guidelines banning gatherings of more than 50 people, which is meant to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

A statement from B.C.’s COVID-19 joint information centre said that order does not directly apply to grocery stores, although “the spirit of the order should be followed.”

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“This means that, for example, in large grocery stores where it is feasible to have more than 50 people present at one time, it is permissible to do so provided that appropriate physical distancing can be maintained,” the statement reads.

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In order to keep people separated, the province says stores must place cones or tape markers every two metres to signal where customers should stand at check-out counters. Lines should also be controlled at entrances.

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Customers should be discouraged from using their own bags or carry-out containers, and stores must use signage to keep customers from placing their own packaging on check-out counters.

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Hand sanitizer containing at least 60 per cent ethyl alcohol must be available in dispensers placed near doors, pay stations and “other high-touch locations” for customer and staff use within all stores, the province says.

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Washrooms must be fully stocked with liquid soap, paper towels and warm water, while cleaning schedules and sanitization plans for all stores must be updated and increased.

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Stores are also being forbidden from selling bulk items, except through gravity feed bins or where staff can dispense the items.

Staff must be educated in proper hand washing and to avoid touching their face, and anyone who displays symptoms related to COVID-19 must stay home and self-isolate for 14 days.