New coronavirus restrictions for Quebec malls, retail stores get underway

A store at Fairview Mall in Pointe-Claire, Que. lists its maximum number of clients allowed at a time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tim Sargeant/Global News

New rules aimed at containing the spread of the novel coronavirus come into effect Friday in shopping malls and retail stores across Quebec.

The tightened controls include limiting the number of people in those businesses, depending on their size. Capacity will be determined by dividing by 20 the surface area available to customers in square metres.

For example, a retail store at the Fairview Mall in Pointe-Claire in Montreal’s West Island has a maximum capacity of 19 clients while Costco, a massive club warehouse in the same city, allows up to 463 people at a time.

As part of the plan, all stores must also post clear signage indicating the maximum number of clients allowed inside.

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Masks and physical distancing of two metres must also be enforced and respected in those businesses. The province says those measures must also be applied in lines outside the store.

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Mall and shop owners are expected to enforce the new restrictions. Those who flout the rules risk fines ranging from $1,000 to $6,000.

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Public Security Minister and Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault say work and safety teams will be visiting different businesses in the coming weeks. Police forces will also be making the rounds.

Earlier this week, the Retail Council of Canada welcomed the new measures, noting they were largely in line with its own recommendations to its retailers since the start of the pandemic.

At Fairview Mall, it hasn’t been difficult to implement the new rules.

“We’ve gotten used to lining up when required and waiting for our turn patiently,” said manager Laurent Bruneau. “So it’s gone quite well so far and I don’t anticipate any issues in the near future.”

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The shopping centre also has staff on hand to ensure there aren’t crowds of people roaming the commons areas of the mall, he added.

The restrictions, which were announced earlier this week, come as Quebec sees an uptick in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in recent days.

The province, which has been the hardest hit by the health crisis, broke a new record this week after it topped 1,500 new coronavirus cases in one day. Hospitalizations have also surged, with more than 700 patients in hospital this week — a number not seen since June.

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As a result, the government is hoping to prevent malls and stores from becoming a source of community transmission of the virus and to prevent large crowds during the busy holiday shopping season.

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With files from Global News’ Tim Sargeant and The Canadian Press

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