Manitoba stores, shoppers reminded on Black Friday to follow letter and spirit of public health rules

Manitoba’s chief public health officer warned retailers — and shoppers — to follow public health advice on Black Friday and beyond, after reports of some stores misunderstanding the current rules.

“Curbside pickup, online ordering, remote ordering is allowed, and that includes being able to pay when you pick it up. Our advice is to do most of this remotely,” said Dr. Brent Roussin at a Friday news conference.

But in some stores’ plans, “we saw that would require [customers] to actually be ordering on-site. That isn’t acceptable under the order,” he said.

In some cases, retailers had setups that involved customers travelling to stores, leafing through flyers and interacting with staff before placing orders at the premises, Roussin said.

That approach isn’t allowed, but Roussin said fines won’t be issued right away, because it appears the stores that used it were trying to follow the rules.

“We’re under the impression that the stores that we’ve been in contact with, that approached us with some questions on this, were acting in good faith,” he said Friday.

“We expect that to be rectified today.”

Manitoba’s partial lockdown rules allow essential items, including food, winter clothing and pharmaceuticals, to be bought in store. Non-essential goods, including books, toys and consumer electronics, can’t be purchased in person, but can be delivered, or made available for curbside pickup of orders placed online or by phone.

Staff at a Winnipeg Walmart help a customer pick up a new TV on Black Friday. (John Einarson/CBC)

Enforcement officers are out ensuring stores are complying with public health orders, Roussin said. It remains to be seen how well businesses followed the rules on Black Friday, one of the most significant retail days of the year, he said.

But regardless of what stores are offering, Roussin said the onus is also on customers.

“I hope that Manitobans are listening. Remember, there’s two sides of this, right? There’s the supply and the demand,” he said.

“No matter what these stores have set up in store for Black Friday, there shouldn’t be much of a demand, because Manitobans should be staying home and leaving only for essential purposes.”

Beyond the public health orders themselves, Roussin reminded the public that the spirit of the rules is to encourage staying home.

“Our overall message doesn’t change, and that’s to stay home as much as possible,” he said. “A lot of this is non-essential, and so our message is unwavering.”