Information current

July 10, 2020

We're in Phase 2 of lifting COVID-19 restrictions. If you have non-medical questions, email covid19info@gov.yk.ca or phone 1-877-374-0425.

For medical questions or if you feel ill, phone 811, or launch the COVID-19 self-assessment tool.

Guidance for retail food and grocery stores: COVID-19

Download the COVID-19 guidance for retail food and grocery stores.

On this page:


Retail food and grocery stores play an essential role in every community in Yukon by ensuring safe and reliable access to food, supplies and other provisions.

As Yukoners continue efforts to manage and contain COVID-19, it is crucial that retail food and grocery stores adjust how they operate in order to prevent the transmission and spread of the virus.

This guidance outlines key steps to put in place to ensure physical distancing and good hygiene practice in your food premises to help prevent COVID-19. The information provided is based on current recommendations and is subject to change. All food safety and sanitation requirements for food premises continue under the Public Health and Safety Act’s Eating or Drinking Places Regulation.

In large grocery stores it may be feasible to have more than 50 people, while still following appropriate physical distancing. It is acceptable to have over 50 people present at one time if there is 5 square metres (5 m2) of unencumbered retail floor space per person. It is also important to ensure that physical distancing is maintained for customers who might be waiting in line (for example, outside the store, waiting to enter or check out, or to pick up a product).

Key steps for operations of retail and food and grocery stores to help prevent COVID-19

Physical distancing

  1. Place signs near entrances informing customers of the physical distancing methods being used in your store. This should include the number of customers the premises can accommodate inside at a time. Placing multiple signs will help customers maintain physical distance as they read them. Consider having a store representative in place to direct customers. 
    Download the 8 sourdough loaves apart: physical distancing sign. 
  2. Recommend that families designate one person to do the shopping, where possible.
  3. Use physical queue line controls such as crowd control cones, barriers, or ropes at entrances and, if necessary, in check-out lines inside the stores. Place markers such as tape or cones every 2 metres to provide customers with visible queues that support physical distancing; use these in the entrance waiting line, near cashiers, and near products that draw numerous people, e.g. milk, eggs, meat. Alternatively, consider providing an attendant to support customers in high traffic areas.
  4. Add one-way arrows to the floor or shelving of aisles, so that customers move in one direction down aisles. This minimizes the need for customers to pass each other in aisles and makes it easier for customers to physically distance.
  5. Encourage customers to move steadily through the aisles and avoid congestion at the ends of aisles.
  6. Allow only 1 customer (or customer and companions, e.g., children) at the cash at a time. At self check-outs have one staff member monitoring physical distancing and sanitizing the checkout, ideally after each customer has hand contact.
  7. High sneeze guards (plexi-glass barriers/dividers) have been installed in many cases where staff are required to be in close contact with customers. This best practice should be considered to protect cashiers and customers who encounter many people.
  8. Encourage cashiers to step back from customers when customers use card readers if a sneeze guard is not available or the 2 metre (6 feet) distance cannot be achieved.
  9. Consider leaving every second cash empty to allow cashiers to self-distance from customers when they pay or pack bags.
  10. Set-up portable barriers around employees when restocking (e.g. produce carts).
  11. Provide frequent reminders over the public announcement (PA) system to customers about physical distancing and any other key messaging (e.g., sanitizing hands at entrance, stay home if feeling ill, no gathering/crowding in one area, ensure two metres/six feet apart in line-ups).
  12. To minimize physical contact between people, communicate information regarding online or telephone orders, delivery or pick up services as alternatives to shopping in person through the stores website, automated telephone messages, newsprint and email subscriptions.

Sanitation and hygiene 

  1. Enhance cleaning and disinfection policies and procedures.
  2. Cleaning refers to the removal of dirt and organic material from surfaces. Cleaning alone does not kill or deactivate germs.
  3. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill/deactivate germs on surfaces. This process does not work effectively if surfaces are not cleaned first.
  4. Disinfectants should have a Drug Identification Number (DIN). A DIN is an 8-digit number given by Health Canada that confirms it is approved for use in Canada. Refer to Health Canada’s: Hard-surface disinfectants for use against coronavirus (COVID-19). Check the expiry dates of products you use, and always follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  5. Chlorine bleach solutions may be used for disinfection if appropriate for the surface.
    • Prepare chlorine bleach solutions according to the instructions on the label or in a ratio of:
      • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) bleach per cup (250 mL) of water, or
      • 4 teaspoons (20 mL) bleach per litre (1000 mL) of water.
    • Ensure a minimum of two minutes contact time and allow to air dry.
    • Prepare fresh bleach solution daily.
  6. Educate staff on how to use cleaning agents and disinfectants:
    • Required disinfectant contact times (i.e., amount of time that the product will need to remain wet on a surface to achieve disinfection).
    • Safety precautions and required personal protective equipment (PPE).
    • Directions for where and how to securely store cleaning and disinfectant supplies.
  7. Designate staff to clean and disinfect high traffic areas and frequently touched surfaces and objects (e.g., freezer/cooler doors, produce carts, cashier stations, counters, hand rails).
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least twice per day, and when visibly dirty.
    • Ensure enough time is spent cleaning and disinfecting.
  8. Ensure washrooms are always well stocked with liquid soap, paper towels and toilet paper and that warm running water is available. Antibacterial soap is not required to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Washrooms must be available for customer and staff use at all times.
  9. Provide single-use containers for take-out foods. There may be no use of reusable or customer supplied containers. Customers may use their own utensils when necessary.
  10. Do NOT sell bulk items, except where staff dispense the bulk items. This does not apply to produce or bulk water.
  11. Throughout the day, regularly monitor the condition of the bulk water dispensing system including high-touch surfaces, containers etc. and correct any issues.
  12. Ensure staff are practicing proper hygiene. This includes frequent hand washing, coughing or sneezing into an elbow rather than a hand or the environment, and avoiding touching one’s face.
  13. Place hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60% alcohol in dispensers near doors, pay stations and other high-touch locations for customer and staff use. If alcohol-based sanitizer is not available, do not substitute an alcohol-free sanitizer. 
    Download the hand washing notice.
  14. Make disinfectant wipes and trash bins available for wiping down handles on shopping carts and hand baskets and disposing of used wipes. Monitor and refill as needed.
  15. Cashiers should limit the handling of credit cards and loyalty cards wherever possible, by allowing customers to scan or tap their cards and handle the card readers themselves. Encourage tap payment over pin pad use. Clean and sanitize pin pad/POS machine after each use.
  16. There is currently no evidence that communicable diseases, including COVID-19 can be passed on through touching or handling cash. Use of cash is important for some people who have no other way of paying for food. Consider using one cashier for cash payments.
  17. Provide clean carry-out bags for purchased food and grocery products.
  18. Customers that bring their own reusable bags or boxes should package their own purchases.
  19. Avoid using grocery dividers on conveyor belts at cashier stations where possible. Consider single use disposable dividers or direct customers to leave a space. If re-usable dividers are used, they should be cleaned and disinfected after each use between customers.
  20. Limit the number of items per customer for essential products to prevent hoarding.
  21. Operators and employees who choose to use gloves, must ensure thorough hand washing before and after each change of gloves. Gloves are not a substitute for proper hand hygiene. It is important to:
  22. change gloves every hour, or more often, as necessary;
  23. remove gloves when changing tasks;
  24. use new gloves each time gloves are removed; and
  25. monitor and clean the parking lot daily and as necessary (e.g., for discarded gloves, masks, litter).


General advice for staff and customers about COVID-19 and for those who experience cold, influenza, or flu-like symptoms: 

  1. Ensure staff with cold, influenza, or COVID-19 like symptoms such as cough, fever, sore throat, and runny nose do not remain in the workplace. They should be directed to go home.
  2. Staff exhibiting signs and symptoms should remain home, self isolate and call 811 or their health care provider for further assessment. It is important to remember that non COVID infections or chronic illness, may also be responsible for these symptoms such as influenza, asthma, allergies or COPD.
  3. Employers should reassess their work environment every day and keep updated with the daily information posted on Yukon.ca.

Calculating and maintaining the maximum number of people in a store to support physical distancing: 

  1. It is critical to evaluate how many people can reasonably be in a store and easily practice physical distancing of 2 metres between people to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 
    Download the help prevent the spread poster
  2. It is strongly recommended that food retail and grocery store operators have 5 square metres (5 m²) of unencumbered retail floor space per person, i.e., 5 square metres/person.
  3. This unencumbered space is the retail floor space minus floor space used for fittings, displays etc.
  4. Take, for example, a store with 300 square metres of retail floor space with 100 square metres of fittings/displays. (See below for example using feet.)
    • The store has 300 square metres - 100 square metres = 200 square metres of unencumbered floor space for customers.
    • Maximum number of people allowed in the store to support physical distancing would be: (200 square metres) / (5 square metres/person) = 40 people.
  5. Using the same example as above, but using feet instead of metres, a store has 3229 ft² retail floor space with 1076 ft ² of fittings/displays.
    • The store has 3229 ft² - 1076 ft² = 2153 ft² of unencumbered floor space for customers.
    • Maximum number of people allowed in the store to support physical distancing would be: 2153 ft²÷ 53.8 ft² /person = 40 people
  6. Monitor the number of customers and staff entering and leaving the store. Once the maximum number of persons for a store is reached, allow one person in for every person that leaves. Separate incoming and outgoing customer flows if possible.
  7. Evaluate whether people can easily practice physical distancing with the calculated number of people in the store. Evaluate specific areas of the store where it may be a challenge to practice physical distancing.
  8. Consider asking customers about their experience of physical distancing in the store and how to improve the ability to practice physical distancing within and outside the store.

Do you have further questions?

Please refer to yukon.ca/covid-19 for up-to-date information on COVID-19.

Contact Environmental Health Services with questions about food premises and health protection at 867-667-8391 or environmental.health@gov.yk.ca.