As businesses across the Northwest Territories ramp up measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19, some grocery stores and post offices are installing clear dividers to protect customers and workers.
At PW Kaesers Store Ltd, a family-owned grocery and retail store in Fort Smith, dividers have already been installed at checkouts. The store has floor markers to keep two metres of space between customers lining up at the register.
According to the store’s Facebook page, it has reduced hours and is dedicating several hours on Tuesdays and Fridays – from 10am until 1pm – to customers over the age of 50 and vulnerable people.
Ten customers are allowed in the store at a time to maintain social distancing. Only one checkout lane is accepting cash and the store is no longer serving hot meals. Kaesers Home Furnishings and Kaesers Dry Goods are closed for the time being.
The North West Company, which owns Northern and NorthMart, confirmed to Cabin Radio it also plans to install clear shields.
“We are working toward installing plexiglass for cashiers as quickly as possible in our stores,” Alex Yeo, the company’s president of Canadian retail, said in an email.
In a news release on Sunday, the North West Company said it would increase pay for front-line employees by $2 an hour, retroactive to March 8 and lasting until at least April 4. There are 17 Northern and NorthMart stores in the Northwest Territories.
On Monday, Canada Post also announced its intention to install clear barriers and floor decals at counters. The number of customers allowed in smaller offices at one time may be limited.
Canada Post said post offices are now opening one hour later and closing one hour early to “clean, restock, and provide some relief to employees.” Priority service is being offered to the elderly and people with compromised immune systems during each day’s first hour of business.
For package delivery, Canada Post is implementing a “knock, drop, and go” approach. Packages that require proof of age, proof of identity, or customs payments will be taken directly to a post office. Canada Post is suspending its regular 15-day hold limit for parcels until further notice.
In Yellowknife, both Your Independent Grocer stores have announced plans to install plexiglass dividers at checkouts and counters.
Trevor’s Independent, on Old Airport Road, says it has removed all hand baskets and conveyor belt dividers (social distancing means only one customer has groceries on the belt at a time). The store is waiving the usual 25-cent fee for plastic bags.
The Independent has also waived the pickup fee for all online orders on PC Express. Due to increased demand, orders must be made at least 48 hours in advance. The store is providing Yellowknife healthcare workers with an online ordering service by email, including delivery.
The first hour of each day at the Independent is dedicated to senior customers and those living with disabilities.