SASKATOON -- On Thursday the Saskatchewan government released its plan to gradually reopen the economy by easing COVID-19-related restrictions.

The plan is divided into five phases, with the first expected to begin on May 4 and would see provincial parks and campgrounds as well as golf courses resuming operations over a month-long period.

The second phase, tentatively set to begin on May 19, includes the opening of retail businesses such as clothing and shoe stores.

The shopping experience will be a different one if the plan goes ahead as expected. 

Staff will be expected to reduce the spread of the virus through frequent hand washing and disinfecting surfaces like countertops and display areas, while customers will need to adjust how they shop.

"Customers should be encouraged to minimize touching merchandise," the plan says.

It also advises retailers to post signs requesting customers only touch items they intend to buy.

The use of change rooms to try items on will not be permitted, nor will the exchange or return of items.

As part of the recommendations for retailers, customers will also hear regular announcements reminding them to stay at least two metres apart.

Stores will be asked to monitor the number of customers in the store and to limit the number of people inside at any one time.

“It may have to include not having people touching products at all, where they're only picking them up if they're buying them or if there's a staff member there to facilitate inspecting and selecting products,” said Corey Neufeld, co-owner of The Better Good.

"Setting up an online store makes it way easier for anyone that has a compromised immune system and also for people from other towns, making it very easier to support a Saskatchewan-based company,” he said.

If any customers appear to have COVID-19-like symptoms, staff will ask them to leave.

The province also suggests retailers continue to encourage customers to order online or by telephone and pick up their items rather than browse in-store.

saskatoon grocery store covid-19

The list of other businesses that can open during the second phase includes flower shops, jewelry stores, toy stores, pawn shops and ATV dealers.

After reopening, retailers will also be expected to adopt many of the physical distancing measures that have already been put in place at grocery stores in the province. 

With files from Nicole Di Donato