City keeping close eye on malls as Christmas crowds grow

·2 min read

City officials say they'll continue to keep a close eye on Ottawa's increasingly crowded malls to make sure holiday shoppers are following public health protocols.

Bylaw officers will be out in force patrolling shopping centres and big box stores across the city, a city spokesperson said in a statement Thursday. They'll also be on hand to respond to any complaints.

Customers are "reminded to practice physical distancing from others and to ensure their masks are worn properly," the statement said.

Business owners, too, are being reminded to follow protocols aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

"As we head into the holiday shopping season, we encourage business owners to review their current practices and make any necessary changes to ensure they are creating a safer shopping experience," an Ottawa Public Health (OPH) spokesperson said in an email.

Reno Patry/CBC
Reno Patry/CBC

Shoppers thronged Ottawa's major malls last weekend in search of Black Friday deals, and the crowds are expected to continue through Christmas and Boxing Day.

"We did see some good traffic on Black Friday and leading up to that. I think people are trying to get their shopping out of the way," said Brian O'Hoski, general manager at Rideau Centre.

Both Rideau Centre and St. Laurent Shopping Centre have hired extra security guards to enforce mask rules, and have posted pandemic rules and regulations throughout. More signs show shoppers which way to walk, and where to stand to wait their turn to enter busier stores.

Reno Patry/CBC
Reno Patry/CBC

"There's footprints outside each store, and then there's an overflow line for some of those busier stores," said Kristina Sparkes, marketing coordinator at St. Laurent Shopping Centre. "We're also asking people to use a bit of courtesy and common sense."

Both O'Hoski and Sparkes recommend customers visit during non-peak hours to avoid crowds and long waits.