03/16/2020 17:49 EDT | Updated 03/19/2020 18:18 EDT

Grocery Stores Hold Seniors-Only Hours During Coronavirus Pandemic

Some help for some of the most vulnerable.

Empty produce displays. No more pasta, canned soup, or bags of rice. And we all know about the toilet-paper hoarding

As shoppers stock up supplies despite warnings there is no need to stockpile, a few Canadian grocery stores are reserving their morning hours for seniors to ensure they have access to food during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kyle’s No Frills store in Kitimat, B.C. received its deliveries on Sunday night, cleaned and sanitized the store overnight, and then opened early at 8 a.m. Monday for seniors only. 

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Older people are more at risk of becoming more seriously ill from COVID-19,  according to the WHO.

Store owner Kyle MacGillivray said he got the idea from reading about elderly people’s increased risk of contracting COVID-19, combined with public concerns over shortages at grocery stores. 

“I thought it’d be kind for the seniors to be able to come in,” he told HuffPost Canada in a phone interview. “I thought I’d give the most vulnerable the first opportunity to get what they needed.”

There’s a certain demographic out there that is pretty scared.Store owner Kyle MacGillivray

Around 100 seniors showed up to shop, said MacGillivray, and there were a lot of thank-yous. Some seniors told him the event was exactly what they needed.

Older people are more at risk of becoming more seriously ill from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization.

“There’s a certain demographic out there that is pretty scared,” MacGillivray said. “So I think it was a little bit of relief that they could come in and get the supplies they needed — and we had toilet paper.”

MacGillivray said he will consider holding the event again, depending on community need as the virus continues to spread. 

Sobeys High River in Alberta is also taking part in a similar initiative. The store will be open Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. for seniors or people with immune deficiencies.

Shoppers Drug Mart and Loblaw stores are planning to open some stores early with dedicated hours for seniors and people living with disabilities to shop before the crowds, according to a note to customers by CEO Galen Weston on Monday.

There have been at least 324 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada as of midday Monday. More than 20,000 people have been tested for the disease in Canada so far, and four people have died.

COVID-19 is caused by the novel coronavirus which is transmitted through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms include fever, coughing, difficulty breathing and mild to severe, potentially life-threatening pneumonia in both lungs.

UPDATE - March 17, 2020: Sobeys will also be introducing a seniors-only shopping hour in many stores by Friday, the company announced in a letter from CEO Michael Medline.  

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