EOHU Issues New Order for Multidepartment Retail and Grocery Stores


In order to further limit the number of COVID-19 infections in the region, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) has issued a new Order for Multidepartment Retail and Grocery Stores, pursuant to section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA). It will come into effect at 12:01 A.M. on December 19th, 2020 and will remain in effect until further notice.

The Order seeks to prevent further spread of COVID-19 cases by limiting crowding and ensuring adequate physical distancing between shoppers in large retail and grocery stores in the eastern counties. The EOHU issued the Order in response to multiple, repeated complaints from the public about large multidepartment retailers not having adequate line or crowd control. The EOHU has also noted that within multidepartment stores many people tend to crowd in one department disproportionately (mostly grocery and pharmacy sections). Although overall store capacity limits may be respected, when most customers are shopping in one department at the same time, it is no longer possible to maintain the required physical distancing.

“With holiday shopping, we’re seeing large crowds in many stores, which increases the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at this critical time,” says Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health at the EOHU. “I have issued this Order to protect employees, business patrons and the broader community. Putting measures in place to prevent spread of COVID-19 also protects our local businesses by helping us avoid business closures – a last resort to control the spread of the virus.”

The new Order requires multidepartment retail and grocery stores to implement the following measures:

  1. Ensure that a maximum number of patrons is established and clearly marked for each department, and that departments are staffed to ensure that the total number of patrons permitted per department is respected. Overall store capacity limits must be respected.
  2. Post signs stating the total number of patrons permitted per department.
  3. For clarity, high traffic departments in multidepartment stores such as grocery and pharmacy departments must have their own capacity limits.
  4. The following additional measures must also be implemented to ensure crowd control:
    • Ensure that the flow of patrons is enforced and that patrons congregating together or walking against the directions of the arrows are reminded to abide by the rules.
    • Calculate the maximum number of patrons permitted in each department or section based on the square footage available for patrons (available footage excludes areas occupied by shelves, cash registers, etc.).
    • Calculate the maximum number of patrons permitted in each department or section based on the availability of staff to control the traffic and ensure that the implemented measures are enforced.
    • Control lineups both inside and outside the store to ensure physical distancing of at least 2 metres is maintained, and to ensure the total number of patrons in any given department or section is not exceeded because of lined up patrons.

The EOHU, in collaboration with other enforcement agencies, will be increasing inspections of local businesses to ensure compliance with the new Order and other public health requirements aimed at protecting businesses, employees and the public.

To learn more about the new Order, please consult the official document on the EOHU’s website. For more information about COVID-19, including business-specific requirements, visit the health unit’s website at and Ontario’s website at