People get their temperatures tested at the T&T grocery store to help curb to spread of COVID-19 in Markham, Ont., on Monday, April 20, 2020. Temperature checks and masks are part of a handful of increased protective measures companies like Air Canada, T&T Supermarket and Longo’s are launching as provinces across Canada slowly start to reopen in the middle of the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

People get their temperatures tested at the T&T grocery store to help curb to spread of COVID-19 in Markham, Ont., on Monday, April 20, 2020. Temperature checks and masks are part of a handful of increased protective measures companies like Air Canada, T&T Supermarket and Longo’s are launching as provinces across Canada slowly start to reopen in the middle of the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Companies beef up COVID-19 measures with masks and temperature checks

Policies are part of a handful of increased protective measures companies are launching as provinces start to reopen

When travellers board Air Canada flights, they will have more than their tickets checked.

The Montreal-based airline will soon require all guests to have their temperature read, helping Air Canada detect potential travellers with COVID-19 symptoms.

Similar checks have been implemented on a voluntary basis for two weeks at T&T Supermarket locations and starting Monday, shoppers at Longo Brothers Fruit Markets Inc. are required to wear face masks to enter stores.

The policies are part of a handful of increased protective measures companies are launching as provinces across Canada slowly start to reopen.

The measures are expected to change how we shop, work, travel and play.

“We have to get used to the fact that we will have to maintain physical distancing, but it’s not always going to be possible and so adding the mask gives a little extra layer precaution,” said Vivek Goel, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

“We need to restore public confidence so that when (people are) going out to the store or getting on an airplane, they’re going to be as safe as possible.”

Some businesses have moved toward taking temperatures because it reinforces and reminds people that if they have a temperature, a cough or a runny nose they should stay home.

The checks aren’t fail proof because some who contract the virus are asymptomatic at first or never develop any signs of COVID-19, said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief medical officer of health.

“The more you actually understand this virus the more you begin to know that temperature-taking is not effective at all,” she said Monday.

Masks have similarly been a source of controversy for public health officials who deemed them unnecessary when the pandemic began.

Michael Bryant, the executive director and general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said some measures can be concerning because “you’re giving store employees and airline employees a new power that they are exerting over other people to either deny them entry or even just simply to take their temperature.”

Bylaw officers given similar powers have so far been “overzealous” in their reprimands, which could happen at businesses, he warned.

There are also lot of unknowns about what is being done with the data these companies collect and how it will be used in the future, Bryant said.

While people in urban centres can “vote with their feet,” by not visiting supermarkets or flying with airlines with specific measures in place, not everyone is so fortunate.

“In regions where there isn’t consumer choice, this is a very big decision… because it threatens people’s food security if they have no other place to go to get food,” he said.

Despite the concerns, Goel said mask requirements and temperature checks are bound to become common sightings as companies reopen.

Already grocery stores have gone a few steps further with plexiglass shields for cashiers, special shopping hours for seniors and staggered lines keeping people at least about two metres apart.

They have also asked shoppers to stop bringing reusable bags to stores and have removed self-serve and sampe foods.

The mask requirement is newer.

Gabriel Comanean, a Markham, Ont.-based renovations worker, first noticed grocery stores introducing the requirement for shoppers on a trip to Field Fresh Foods in Scarborough with his wife at the end of March.

“We went there shopping and then they asked us to leave,” he said. “We didn’t have masks on.”

A worker at the grocery store later verified the policy in a call with The Canadian Press.

Comanean was initially taken aback by the request, but the couple later returned with masks and now wears them whenever they go shopping.

“It’s safer to have a mask on, not only for yourself but for other people and protecting them,” Comanean said.

READ MORE: B.C. records three new COVID-19 deaths in longterm care over past 48 hours

Over at Air Canada, masks are just the start of precautions.

Canadians are being encouraged to stay home and avoid flying, but the airline has developed a plan for when restrictions are loosened, including infrared temperature checks, requiring face coverings, revising food policies to minimize crew and passenger contact and beginning eclectrostatic cabin spraying to disinfect planes.

“To promote physical distancing and provide more personal space onboard our aircraft, we will block the sale of adjacent seats in economy class…until at least June 30,” added senior executive Lucie Guillemette, on the company’s Monday earnings call.

As more businesses start to open Goel expects them to be confronted by issues they have never encountered before, such as how many people to allow on an elevator at once or whether people should only be allowed to ride if they are wearing a mask.

In classrooms and at movie theatres, cleanings will need to be increased and some patrons may want to bring along their own wipes to give their seat an extra scrub.

Companies, he said, are going to have to warn customers and employees about changes in advance and make it simple to follow the guidelines.

“They’re going to have to make it as easy as possible,” he said. “There’s going to have to be a pretty significant change in public attitude.”

However, Goel said public needs to be reminded that while more measures can stop the spread of the disease, they won’t catch and prevent every COVID-19 case.

“We have to be prepared to accept that there will be some cases of COVID-19 as we start to reopen things,” he said.

“We’re going to have to weigh that against the benefits of staying locked up forever.”

— with files from Christopher Reynolds in Montreal and Mia Rabson in Ottawa.

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

That’s Houston physician Dr. Stefanie Steel receiving her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Jan. 19, 2021 from RN nurse manager Cindy Cockle. (Northern Health photo)
First Houston vaccinations take place

Long term care residents, health care workers on list

Administering naloxone to a person experiencing a benzo-related overdose event won’t help. Naloxone is used to neutralize opioids. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)
Northern Health warning drug users of potential benzo contamination

The drug does not respond to naloxone, and is being included in street drugs

COVID-19 exposure reported at Houston Secondary. (Houston Today photo)
COVID-19 exposure reported at Houston Secondary School

Self-monitoring for symptoms encouraged

Silverthorne Elementary School
Students staying at home would not receive special treatment

Know that our schools are safe and clean. We are very diligent in our COVID protocols.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Francina Mettes and Thomas Schouten with the 200-page document they submitted in December of 2018. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Dutch 94-year-old facing unwanted trip home can stay in B.C.

Immigration offices cuts red tape so couple of 45 years can stay together in Victoria area

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier, health officials to discuss next steps in COVID immunization plan

Nearly 31,000 doses of vaccine the province expected by Jan. 29 could be curtailed due to production issues

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

Most Read