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Manitoba reopening amid COVID-19 pandemic ‘like waking up groggy from a bad dream’: retail council

John Graham, director of the Retail Council of Canada's Prairie office.
John Graham, director of the Retail Council of Canada's Prairie office. Retail Council of Canada

Monday marks the beginning of Manitoba’s phased economic reopening, but it may not be the exciting event many retailers had expected when restrictions first came into place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Under normal circumstances, there’d be a tremendous amount of work and excitement that would go into reopening, but this is anything but normal,” said John Graham, Prairie director of the Retail Council of Canada.

“I think it’s really like waking up groggy after a bad dream.”

Although many retailers previously deemed non-essential are reopening Monday, strict physical-distancing guidelines remain in effect, and businesses must limit the number of customers to half of the maximum capacity. Hefty fines are in place for organizations that don’t follow the rules.

READ MORE: Winnipeg businesses prepare to reopen as province loosens COVID-19 restrictions

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Graham said that for many retailers, there’s been a scramble to rehire employees who had been laid off due to the pandemic as well as to obtain necessary safety equipment and restock shelves.

“(It’s) short notice, and a lot of scrambling for rehiring of staff and understanding of physical distancing and cleaning requirements … updating inventory and adjusting hours likely as well,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s a bunch of retailers who are rushing to open their doors first thing this morning, and frankly, we expect a lot fewer customers coming through the doors this weekend and beyond.”

In addition to retailers, patios, campgrounds, golf courses and museums are among the services and businesses allowed to reopen on Monday.

READ MORE: Winnipeg to resume some services amid COVID-19 as Manitoba moves to reopen

Jonathan Alward with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business told 680 CJOB some businesses are having to adjust.

“Some that I’ve talked to already are looking at new options, possibly extended hours or maybe more flexible hours than what they would have before,” said Alward. “To make sure they can get a large number of people in while still respecting those social-distancing practices.”

Alward said he’s concerned some workers might not come back to their jobs right away. Workers may not have child care lined up on short notice, and some may have medical conditions and be afraid of getting sick.

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“As of right now, there’s definitely going to be quite a few staff that are going to be staying home, and employers are going to be having staff shortages because of that,” he said.

Click to play video 'Winnipeggers mixed on province’s reopening plans' Winnipeggers mixed on province’s reopening plans
Winnipeggers mixed on province’s reopening plans