Last updated: June 11, 2021 at 7:35 a.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.

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

  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • 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 during Step 1 of Roadmap to Reopen (O. Reg. 82/20)

  • The following businesses that engage in retail sales to the public may open if they meet applicable conditions:
  • Supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets and other stores that primarily sell food
  • Pharmacies
  • Discount and big box retailers selling groceries
  • Safety supply stores
  • Businesses that primarily sell, rent or repair assistive devices, aids or supplies, mobility devices, aids or supplies or medical devices, aids or supplies.
  • Optical stores that sell prescription eyewear to the public.
  • Retail stores operated by telecommunications providers.
  • Stores sell alcohol, including beer, wine and spirits.
  • Outdoor garden centres and plant nurseries.
  • Indoor greenhouses
  • The businesses noted above must comply with the following conditions:
    • They must limit the total number of members of the public in the place of business so that the total number of members of the public in the place of business at any one time does not exceed 25 per cent capacity.
      • This can be calculated by taking the total square metres of floor area 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.
    • They must ensure that any music played at the place of business is not at a decibel level that exceeds the level at which normal conversation is possible
  • For more information, see COVID-19 Guidance for Farmers’ Fresh Food & Holiday Markets, and COVID-19 Guidance for Food Stores as applicable.
  • Other retail businesses (those not described above) may open under the following conditions:
    • They must limit the number of members of the public in the place of business so that the total number of members of the public in the place of business at any one time does not exceed 15 per cent capacity.
      • This can be calculated by taking the total square metres of floor area accessible to the public, not including shelving and store fixtures, dividing that number by 26.67 and rounding the result down to the nearest whole number.
    • They must ensure that any music played at the place of business is not at a decibel level that exceeds the level at which normal conversation is possible.

Note: Non-essential businesses in malls may only open for in-person shopping if they have a public entrance that opens onto a street or exterior sidewalk.

  • 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.

Review O. Reg. 82/20, Schedule 7 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.
  • Clean and disinfect shopping carts and baskets after each use. Those which cannot be easily sanitized should not be provided (e.g. cloth bags). Have a clearly designated drop off area for used carts and baskets.
  • Consider providing disinfecting wipes for customer use to wipe down handles on shopping carts and hand baskets.
  • 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 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.

Facilitate Physical Distancing

  • All patrons must maintain two metres/six feet distancing while shopping and standing in line inside and outside.
  • 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.
  • Masks are required while waiting in line indoors, and strongly recommended outdoors.
  • 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.

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 dining is not permitted. Prohibit consumption of food or drink while inside the store. See COVID-19 Guidance for Restaurants, Bars & Other Food Service Premises for more information.
  • Food sampling must be served in a prepackaged format, for take-home consumption. See COVID-19 Guidance for Food Stores for more information.
  • 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

  • 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 Step 1 of Roadmap to Reopen (O. Reg. 82/20)

  • Businesses within indoor shopping malls may open for in-person retail sales to the public if they
    • Are permitted to open under Reg. 82/20, section 2 (2) of schedule 7
    • Have a public entrance that opens onto a street or exterior sidewalk
  • Members of the public must only be permitted to enter the shopping mall:
    • To access a business or place that is permitted to open
    • 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.
  • If a business or place in the shopping mall has a public entrance that opens onto a street or exterior sidewalk,
    • members of the public may only be permitted to enter and exit the business or place through a public entrance that opens onto a street or exterior sidewalk, and
    • members of the public must be prohibited from entering or exiting the business or place through any entrance that opens directly into the shopping mall.
  • Businesses located within an indoor shopping mall that do not have a public entrance that opens onto a street or exterior sidewalk are permitted to be open for pick-up or delivery only.
  • A shopping mall may establish a single designated location inside 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.
  • 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.

Limit Capacity

Operators must limit the number of persons in a place of business or facility so that:

  • 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
    • 25 per cent capacity for essential retailers as described in section 2 (2) of Schedule 7 of Reg. 82/20 (e.g., pharmacies, grocery stores, discount stores)
      • 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.
    • 15 per cent of the capacity for all other retailers
      • 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 26.67 and rounding the result down to the nearest whole number.
    • See COVID-19 Guidance for Retail Settings for details
  • 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.
  • Sanitize shared items (e.g. shopping carts, baskets, strollers) 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 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.
  • Masks are required while waiting in line indoors and strongly recommended outdoors.
  • 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.

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 dining, including in food courts is not permitted. Food premises within the mall may remain open for outdoor dining, take-away or delivery only.
  • Any interior dining spaces inside the shopping mall, including any tables and seating in food courts, must be closed.
  • Mall operators, food court vendors and food other establishments within the mall 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