Black Friday kicks off with enforcement blitz

Shoppers may be in search of Black Friday sales this weekend, but COVID-19 enforcement officers will be out in full force and will be issuing tickets to businesses that ignore mandated COVID-19 safety measures and could even shut down repeat offenders in a bid to reduce overcrowding.

COVID-19 enforcement task force members, including municipal bylaw and Ministry of Labour officers, will also be visiting restaurants, food premises, fitness centres and various other locations to ensure they’re meeting public health measures. York Regional Police officers will be on hand.

Businesses that violate enhanced measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 face fines of up to $5,000 a person and up to $25,000 for a corporation for every day or part of each day on which the offence takes place or continues, the Region warned earlier this week.

While most businesses are adhering to COVID-19 safety measures and protocols, the Region reports an increasing number of complaints from the public about overcrowding in malls and big box and retail stores. Between November 19 and 22, public health inspectors conducted 32 inspections to restaurants, big-box stores, supermarkets, fitness facilities and karaoke bars that resulted in 22 charges at 19 establishments.

Before you go shopping, the Region encourages you to consider whether the items you’re looking for can be ordered online from a local business. If you must go into a store, try and time your trip for off-peak hours to make it easier to maintain physical distancing with others. The Region also recommends you inquire about curbside pick-up and other safety shopping measures the store has in place, to plan and know what you need from each store to limit the amount of time you spend there, to follow the rules set out by the store and to be patient if waiting in line due to occupancy limits.

Follow directional arrows and store signs set out by staff and remember that you must wear a face mask or covering while in public spaces, including retail stores.  Among other things, shopping malls must set a maximum capacity for patrons, ensure all stores set a maximum capacity limit, and actively manage all lineups or patrons congregating and ensure all patrons waiting in lineups inside or outside the mall maintain physical distancing.

To remain open and avoid charges, businesses must comply with all requirements set out under the Reopening Ontario Act and the Section 22 Class Order. Businesses can find helpful resources at Ontario.ca/covidsafety and york.ca/preventcovid19atwork.

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