Cutting liquor store hours amounts to a half-measure that could undermine efforts to contain COVID-19, according to an epidemiologist.
“Reducing hours and concentrating customers into crowded times makes no sense, as would forming lines outside,” said Donald Milton, who studies the spread of virus particles at the University of Maryland.
He said the potential for crammed spaces risks spreading the virus, which has infected more than 730 Canadians and killed nine.
Milton recommends either closing stores entirely or maintaining regular or extended hours.
Government-run liquor stores in provinces including Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia are scaling back operating times, opening their doors for between seven and nine hours on most days.
Provincial Crown corporations in Ontario and Quebec are managing traffic flow to avoid crowding, while the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation has designated a one-hour shopping time starting at 10 a.m. for seniors and consumers at a higher risk of contracting the virus.
Shoppers in Charlottetown lined up Wednesday and Thursday after the government of Prince Edward Island announced that all non-essential services will be shut _ including liquor stores _ by Thursday afternoon, leaving residents with less than 24 hours to stock up on booze and cannabis.
The province’s chief health officer expressed disapproval with how drinkers handled the news.
“I have to say I’m disappointed in Islanders’ response in the last three hours,” Heather Morrison said at a press briefing Wednesday evening.
“We have talked about social distancing. We have talked about the importance of staying home unless it’s essential. That appears to have been ignored.”
Morrison said the province is looking at alternative sales options, including online retail.
In contrast, Alberta has chosen to stay the course, with Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis spokeswoman Heather Holmen stating that retail stores “are not impacted at this time.”
Scheduled charitable casino events will also roll out as planned, the agency said.