Last updated: April 16, 2021 at 7:45 p.m.

Read Toronto Public Health’s Guidance for Retail Settings (also available below) and Guidelines for Malls and Shopping Centres (also available below).

On January 4, 2021, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health issued a Letter of Instruction to all employers in the City of Toronto permitted to be open under the Reopening Ontario Act. Employers permitted to be open are required to take the additional measures set out in this Letter to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

There are also tips for the general public visiting retail stores and shopping malls.

On April 16, the Government of Ontario announced that effective Saturday, April 17 at 12:01 a.m., capacity limits in all retail settings where in-store shopping is permitted will be reduced to 25 per cent. This includes supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets, other stores that primarily sell food and pharmacies. This page will soon be updated with more information.

This document contains guidance for retail operators to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It describes the requirements operators must comply with under the Reopening Ontario Act. For related information, please refer to Guidance for Malls and Shopping Centres.

As every retail setting is different, it is ultimately the responsibility of the operator to review their own site-specific circumstances and assess their ability to implement appropriate infection prevention and control measures.

The aim and purpose of this document is to assist individuals and businesses with information related to the Ontario Government’s reopening framework as well as Toronto Public Health requirements to reduce the spread of COVID-19. It is important to know that breaches of some of these directions will constitute offences under provincial regulations or other public health legal requirements. While we aim to provide relevant and timely information, no guarantee can be given as to the accuracy or completeness of any information provided. This guidance is not intended to nor does it provide legal advice and should not be relied upon or treated as legal advice. Users seeking legal advice should consult with a qualified legal professional.

Protective Measures to Keep Everyone Safe

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Keep a two metre/six feet distance from those you don’t live with, when possible.
  • Wash your hands often, and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow.
  • Wear a face mask or covering when you are in indoor public spaces, and when you cannot maintain a two metre/six foot distance outdoors.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Businesses That May Open (O. Reg. 82/20)

Type of retail business

Restricted hours a

By appointment only

In-person shopping

Curbside pick-up and delivery

Supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers markets, other stores that primarily sell food, and pharmacies N/A

At 50% capacity

Discount and big box retailers that sell groceries to the public b N/A

At 50% capacity, with restrictions

Stores that primarily sell alcohol N/A

At 25% capacity

Safety supply stores, businesses that sell, rent or repair assistive/mobility/ medical devices, and optical stores that sell prescription eyewear to the public

At 25% capacity

Motor/recreational vehicle sales

At 25% capacity, with restrictions

Outdoor markets, only if they primarily sell food to the public N/A

At 50% capacity

Outdoor garden centres and plant nurseries; indoor greenhouses that engage in retails sales to the public N/A

At 25% capacity

Retail stores operated by a telecommunications provider or service

a Must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m. Must not deliver goods to patrons outside the hours of 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

b In-store shopping must only be available for grocery items, pet care supplies, household cleaning supplies, pharmaceutical items, health care items and personal care items.

Other retail businesses

Other retail businesses (those not described above) may open under the following conditions:

  • Sales must be exclusively made using an alternative method of sale that does not require patrons to enter the indoor area of the business, including curbside pickup or delivery.
  • If a business allows patrons to pick-up items, it must:
  • have a public entrance that opens onto a street or exterior sidewalk, or
  • in the case of a business in a shopping mall, permit patrons to pick up the items at a designated location established by the shopping mall.
  • An item may only be provided for pickup if the patron ordered the item before arriving at the business premises.
  • Patrons may only pick up orders by making a prior appointment.
  • The business must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m. and must not deliver goods to patrons outside the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Review O. Reg. 82/20, Schedule 2 for more information.

Measures for All Workplaces, Organizations & Businesses

Review the Guidance for Employers on Preventing COVID-19 in the Workplace to plan and implement protocols to keep staff and patrons safe. Operators must also consider the following:

  • Health screening for staff and patrons
  • Staff must be actively screened prior to their work shift.
    • Patrons must self-screen prior to entering the premises.
    • Post signs on the front door explaining the conditions for entry, including screening.
  • Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
    • Provide hand sanitizer with 70-90% alcohol concentration in dispensers outside the entrance to the store, particularly near high-touch services such as bank machines, touch-screen signs, elevators, escalators and stair railings.
    • Encourage everyone to use hand sanitizer when they enter.
  • Cleaning and disinfection
    • Business hours may need to be adjusted to accommodate enhanced cleaning and disinfecting practices.
    • Employees should use gloves if it is anticipated that hands will come into contact with bodily fluids, broken skin, mucous membranes, contaminated equipment or environmental surfaces.
  • Discourage use of touch screens for wayfinding.
  • Shopping carts and baskets must be sanitized between each patron. Those which cannot be easily sanitized should not be provided (e.g. cloth bags).
  • Do not hand out any coupons, samples, testers, or flyers.
  • Remove soft/porous items that are difficult to sanitize such as upholstery, cushions and rugs.

Safety Plan

Operators must prepare and make available a safety plan, and the plan must:

  • Describe measures/procedures that have been or will be implemented in the business, place, facility or establishment to reduce spread of COVID.
  • Include measures for screening, physical distancing, masks, cleaning, disinfecting and personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Be in writing and made available to any person for review, on request.
  • Be posted in a visible place to come to the attention of those working or attending the location.

Use the COVID-19 Safety Plan Checklist to develop your safety plan.

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

  • Increase the introduction and circulation of outdoor air by maximizing the outdoor air ratio of the HVAC system settings, or by opening windows and doors, where possible. Avoid recirculating air.
  • Do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety risk.
  • Ensure the HVAC system(s) are properly maintained.
  • Where provided, use the highest efficiency filters that are compatible with the HVAC system.
  • Keep areas near HVAC inlets and outlets clear.
    • Seating and activities should be arranged away from areas with high airflow (i.e. not in front of air vents).
  • Rooms where indoor ceiling fans are used should have an upward airflow rotation.
  • If portable fans are used, limit the blowing of air across people and surfaces by positioning them to provide an upward movement of air.
  • For more information, review TPH’s COVID-19: Transmission, Aerosols and Ventilation fact sheet.

Capacity Limits

  • Operators shall limit the number of people in the place of business or facility so that:
  • the members of the public are able to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres/six feet from every other person; and
  • the total number of members of the public in the business or facility at any one time does not exceed:
    • 50 per cent capacity of the particular room for pharmacies; supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, discount and big box stores, farmers markets and other stores that primarily sell food.
      • This can be determined by taking the total square metres of floor space accessible to the public, not including shelving and store fixtures, dividing that number by 8 and rounding the result down to the nearest whole number.
      • Discount and big box stores must calculate capacity limits based on floor area accessible to the public in which the products permitted for in-store shopping are normally displayed for sale.
    • 25 per cent capacity of the particular room for all retail stores not described above.
      • This can be determined by taking the total square metres of floor space accessible to the public, not including shelving and store fixtures, dividing that number by 16 and rounding the result down to the nearest whole number.
    • All operators that engage in retail sales to the public must post a sign in a location visible to the public that states the maximum capacity they are permitted to operate under.

Facilitate Physical Distancing

  • All patrons must maintain two metres/six feet distancing while standing in line inside and outside.
  • Walk through the store to identify areas needing adjustments to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • Estimate the number of patrons and staff allowed onsite to have ease of movement while maintaining two metres/six feet of distance from others.
  • Monitor entrances to control staff and patrons entering the store.
  • Rearrange store layout and remove non-essential furniture/items, to allow ease of movement for physical distancing.
  • Establish directional aisles to manage patron flow.
  • Staff should remind clients to stay two metres/six feet apart, as much as possible.
  • Use every other check out station if less than two metres/six feet apart.
  • Shipping and deliveries should be completed in a designated area, away from patrons and most staff, if possible.
  • Consider patron appointments and coordinate them to allow adequate space to maintain physical distancing between patrons and staff.

Install Transparent Barriers

  • Consider installing plexiglass or other physical barriers where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • To be effective the barrier must be large enough to create a shield between the breathing zones of the people on either side.
  • Download more information about installing effective barriers.

Manage Lines

  • Operators must ensure that patrons lining up or congregating outside their establishment:
    • Maintain at least two metres/six feet physical distancing from other groups of persons, and
    • Wear a mask or face covering, unless entitled to an exemption.
  • Post physical distancing signs at all entrances, service desks or otherwise.
  • Place visual / textural markers (e.g. tape on the floor, pylons, signs) spaced two metres/six feet apart for patrons lining up when waiting to enter the store and cash-out.
  • Assign staff to monitor lines and to make public announcements reminding patrons to keep two metres/six feet apart.

Use of Masks and Face Coverings

  • The use of non-medical masks or face coverings is required in all indoor public spaces, as per a new City of Toronto bylaw. Operators are required to develop a policy on the wearing of masks. Use the Mask By-law Checklist and Sample Policy.
  • Appropriate personal protective equipment that covers the eyes, nose and mouth must be worn if, while providing service in an indoor area, the person
    • is required to come within two metres of another person who is not wearing a mask or face covering; and
    • is not separated by plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier from a person described above.

Music/Noise

  • Music played in the facility cannot exceed the decibel level at which normal conversation is possible.

Food and Beverages

  • Indoor and outdoor dining, including providing food or beverages for consumption inside a store, is not permitted. Food sampling must be served in a prepackaged format, for take-home consumption. See COVID-19 Guidance for Food Stores for more information.
  • Prohibit consumption of food or drink while inside the store.
  • Designate an appropriate space, away from patrons, for employees to consume food and drink. Ensure this area follows all applicable public health measures (e.g., physical distancing, cleaning and disinfecting).

Additional Considerations

Product displays

  • Consider stocking shelves and arranging product displays when the store is closed to patrons. Where stocking or product display arrangements are needed during operating hours, define safe practices for workers. Consider closing aisles while restocking or using signs to remind patrons to stay two metres/six feet apart.
  • Workers should wash their hands before and after stocking/rearranging shelves or product displays.

Assisting patrons

  • Consider stopping, reducing or modifying your patron interaction, demonstration, and assistance practices to reduce contact intensity and number of contacts. Maintain a two metre/six foot distance when providing service face-to-face. Ensure both patron and staff are wearing a mask.
  • To minimize physical contact with patrons, offer online or telephone orders with delivery or pick up services as alternatives to shopping in person.

Checkout and returns/exchanges

  • Patrons who bring their own reusable shopping bags should pack their own bags at checkout.
  • Use tap features at checkout instead of cash, where possible.
  • Returns should only be allowed for merchandise that can be wiped down or quarantined (e.g. 24 to 72 hours) before re-sale.

Fitting rooms

  • Patrons must not be permitted to occupy adjacent fitting room stalls at any one time.
  • Encourage patrons to sanitize their hands before trying on clothes.
  • Surfaces in fitting room stalls should be cleaned and disinfected after each use.
  • Remove unnecessary or decorative objects from inside the fitting rooms.
  • Do not hand customers tokens or number cards. Consider other options to count or limit the number of items brought into a fitting room.
  • Ask customers to leave unwanted items in a designated location, including hangers.
  • Items that have been tried on should be quarantined in a sanitized bin or space before returning them to the rack/shelf.

Increase Communication with Patrons

  • Provide information to patrons about retail operations (e.g. public health measures, changes to store policies) through different platforms (e.g. website, email, social media).
  • Post signs at the entrance instructing patrons and staff not to enter if they are sick.
  • Download information and post educational materials to encourage healthy behaviours that reduce the spread of COVID-19:

Other Resources

This document contains guidance for operators of mall/shopping centres to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It describes the requirements operators must comply with under the Reopening Ontario Act. For public health guidance on individual retail settings and stores, refer to COVID-19 Guidance for Retail Settings.

The aim and purpose of this document is to assist individuals and businesses with information related to the Ontario Government’s reopening framework as well as Toronto Public Health requirements to reduce the spread of COVID-19. It is important to know that breaches of some of these directions will constitute offences under provincial regulations or other public health legal requirements. While we aim to provide relevant and timely information, no guarantee can be given as to the accuracy or completeness of any information provided. This guidance is not intended to nor does it provide legal advice and should not be relied upon or treated as legal advice. Users seeking legal advice should consult with a qualified legal professional.

As every mall and shopping centre is different, it is ultimately the responsibility of the operator to review their own site-specific circumstances and assess their ability to implement appropriate infection prevention and control measures.

What is permitted during shutdown (O. Reg. 82/20)

  • Members of the public must only be permitted to enter the shopping mall:
    • To access a business or place that is permitted to open (e.g. pharmacy).
    • For the purpose of accessing a designated location to pick up an order.
    • For the purpose of delivering or supporting the delivery of court services.
    • For operations by or on behalf of a government.
    • For the purpose of delivering or supporting the delivery of government service.
  • Shopping malls must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m. and must not deliver goods to patrons outside the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
    • A shopping mall may open outside these hours only to provide access to a business or place that is permitted to open during those hours under the O. Reg. 82/20, and is only accessible to the public through the interior of the mall.
  • Non-essential retail outlets in malls are permitted to be open for pick-up or delivery only. In-person retail shopping is not permitted. See COVID-19 Guidance for Retail Settings for details.
  • A shopping mall may establish a single designated location within the mall, and/or any number of designated locations outside the mall for the purposes of allowing patrons to pick up an order from a business or place inside the mall. Patrons may only pick up orders from the designated location by making a prior appointment. An item may only be provided for pick-up if the patron ordered the item before arriving at the business premises.
  • Indoor shopping mall operators are required to actively screen patrons before they enter the establishment, as per instructions from the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
  • Members of the public who enter the shopping mall must not be permitted to loiter in any area of the shopping mall that is not related to the purpose of their visit.
  • Any interior dining spaces inside the shopping mall, including any tables and seating in food courts, must be closed.
  • All patrons must wear a mask and maintain at least two metres/six feet physical distancing while standing in line inside and outside.
    • Operators must limit the number of persons in a place of business or facility so that:
  • the members of the public are able to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person in the business or facility; and
  • the number of people occupying any room that is open to the public does not exceed 50 per cent of the capacity of the particular room.
    • This can be determined by taking the total square metres of floor space accessible to the public, not including shelving and store fixtures, dividing that number by 8 and rounding the result down to the nearest whole number.
  • The person responsible for a place of business or facility that engages in retail sales to the public must post a sign in a location visible to the public that states the maximum capacity they are permitted to operate under.

Measures for all workplaces, organizations & businesses

Review the Guidance for Employers on Preventing COVID-19 in the Workplace to plan and implement protocols to keep staff and patrons safe. Operators must also consider the following:

  • Health screening for staff and patrons
    • Shopping malls are required to actively screen all patrons and staff before entering the mall. Questions can be answered verbally or on paper at the entrance, or in online if the person shows proof of completed screening tool. See Preventing COVID-19 in the Workplace for more information on screening, including how to set up a screening station.
  • Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
    • Provide hand sanitizer with 70-90% alcohol concentration outside entrances and in multiple locations throughout the mall (e.g. near high-touch surfaces such as bank machines, touch-screen signs, elevators, escalators, stairs, and food courts).
    • Encourage everyone to use hand sanitizer when they enter the mall.
  • Cleaning and disinfection
    • Business hours may need to be adjusted to accommodate enhanced cleaning and disinfecting practices.
    • Employees should use gloves if it is anticipated that hands will come into contact with bodily fluids, broken skin, mucous membranes, contaminated equipment or environmental surfaces.
  • Discourage use of touch screens for wayfinding.
  • Shared items (e.g. shopping carts, baskets, strollers) must be sanitized between each patron. Those which cannot be easily sanitized should not be provided (e.g. cloth bags).
  • Do not hand out any coupons, samples, testers, or flyers.
  • Remove soft/porous items that are difficult to sanitize such as upholstery, cushions and rugs.

Safety plan

  • Operators must prepare and make available a safety plan. The safety plan must:
    • Describe measures/procedures that have been or will be implemented in the business, place, facility or establishment to reduce spread of COVID-19.
    • Include measures for screening, physical distancing, masks, cleaning, disinfecting and personal protective equipment (PPE).
    • Be in writing and made available to any person for review, on request.
    • Be posted in a visible place to come to the attention of those working or attending the location.
  • Use the COVID-19 Safety Plan Checklist to develop your safety plan.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems

  • Ensure the HVAC system(s) are properly maintained.
  • Increase outdoor air-exchange by:
  • maximizing the outdoor air ratio of the HVAC system settings, or
  • open windows and doors, if it is safe to do so.
  • Use the highest efficiency filters that are compatible with the HVAC system.
  • Keep seating and activities away from air vents and areas with high airflow.
  • Do not obstruct HVAC inlets and outlets.
  • When using ceiling fans, use an upward airflow rotation.
  • If portable fans are used, position fan with an upward movement to avoid blowing of air across people and surfaces.
  • There is no evidence the use of portable air purifiers will prevent the spread of COVID-19. If used, follow the manufacturer’s directions to decide where best to place the device. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on maintenance.
  • For more information, review the COVID-19: Transmission, Aerosols and Ventilation fact sheet.

Use of masks and face coverings

  • The use of non-medical masks or face coverings is required in all indoor public spaces, as per the City of Toronto By-law 541-2020 and Reg. 82/20. Operators are required to develop a policy and protocols on the wearing of masks. Use the Mask By-law Checklist and Sample Policy.
  • Appropriate personal protective equipment that covers the eyes, nose and mouth must be worn if, while providing service in an indoor area, the person
    • is required to come within two metres of another person who is not wearing a mask or face covering; and
    • is not separated by plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier from a person described above.
  • Post signs encouraging people to dispose of used masks safely in garbage bins.

Facilitate physical distancing

  • Adjust operating hours to control the number of people permitted in the mall at one time.
    • Consider ways to support vulnerable populations such as dedicated mall hours.
  • Assign employees or security to assist with ensuring physical distancing in high-traffic areas.
  • Monitor entrances to control the number of people entering the mall at any given time.
    • Restrict and/or direct the flow of people into, throughout and exiting the mall (e.g. designate some doors for entry or exit to avoid two-way traffic, designate some hallways for one-way traffic with signs and floor decals).
    • Encourage visitors to exit the mall as quickly as possible following completion of their shopping/transactions.
  • Remove, separate or block off seating at least two metres/six feet in shared spaces.
  • Limit the number of people in washrooms at any one time.
    • Close toilets, urinals, sinks and hand dryers that are less than two metres/six feet apart without barriers between them.

Install transparent barriers

  • Consider installing plexiglass or other physical barriers where physical distancing cannot be maintained, such as at information kiosks.
  • To be effective the barrier must be large enough to create a shield between the breathing zones of the people on either side.
  • Download information about installing effective barriers.

Manage lines

  • Operators must ensure that patrons lining up or congregating outside their establishment:
    • maintain at least two metres/six feet physical distancing from other groups of persons, and
    • wear a mask or face covering, unless entitled to an exemption.
  • Post physical distancing signs at all entrances, service desks or otherwise.
  • Place visual / textural markers (e.g. tape on the floor, pylons, signs) spaced two metres/six feet apart for patrons lining up when waiting to enter.
  • Assign staff to monitor lines and to make public announcements reminding patrons to keep two metres/six feet apart.

Mall attractions and activities

  • Mall activities and attractions are currently not permitted.

Music/noise

  • Music played in the facility cannot exceed the decibel level at which normal conversation is possible.

Food Service and Food Courts

  • Indoor and outdoor dining, including in food courts is not permitted. Food premises within the mall may remain open for take-away or delivery only.
  • Mall operators and food court vendors must refer to COVID-19 Guidance for Restaurants.
  • Prohibit consumption of food or drink while walking through malls.
  • Mall and/or retail operators should designate locations for mall employees to consume food and beverages safely and away from members of the public.

Increase communication with patrons

  • Communicate to patrons, tenants and staff about the changes you have made to protect them against COVID-19 through multiple platforms (e.g. signs, website, social media, voice mail).
  • Use public announcement systems frequently to deliver key messages to mall visitors (e.g. physical distancing, sanitizing hands at entrances, no gathering/crowding in one area).
  • Encourage patrons, tenants and staff to download the COVID Alert app so they can be notified directly if they have been in close contact with someone who was contagious with COVID-19.
  • Post signs at the entrance instructing visitors, tenants and employees not to enter if they are sick.
  • Download information and post or promote educational materials to encourage healthy behaviours that reduce the spread of COVID-19:

Other Resources