By FARRAH JOHNSON
AS the coronavirus continues to infect people worldwide, Bay Street retailers said they are taking the necessary precautions to decrease their chances of contracting the potentially deadly disease.
The Tribune canvassed the downtown area to find out what the stores – which come into contact with thousands of visitors from around the world every day – are doing to protect staff amid the global outbreak.
Simone Whyte, a sales professional at Diamonds International, said the luxury jewellery store is taking a number of “precautionary steps” to protect its staff and customers from being exposed.
“Right now the coronavirus is in the headlines and it’s all over the news,” she said. “It’s widespread and of course it does affect our business because tourists are a major part of our revenue for the company.
“In terms of the precautionary steps, we’re trying to keep the spread of the bad germs at a minimum so we are spraying the entire store four times a day, every two hours.”
Ms Whyte said in addition to disinfecting frequently, staff have also “plastered” safety tip posters all over the store to inform people on how to avoid contracting and spreading the disease.
“We have sanitizer pumps at every station in the store,” she added. “We also try to keep the Clorox wipes underneath the showcases where we have the jewellery set up so after every sale or interaction with the customers, we are able to wipe down from the aftermath.”
Ms Whyte said that every morning, the staff has a “regular briefing” with managers where they are told what kind of traffic they are going to have that day.
She said during these meetings, they are given safety tips and told to look out for customers who display flu-like symptoms. “They tell us to keep yourself abreast and when they do walk away, spray if you can,” she explained.
Still, while Ms Whyte said she is confident Diamonds International is doing everything it can do to prepare for the virus, she said she is still concerned they may lose customers amidst the global outbreak.
“Even now we have seen a little bit of a decline in the traffic as far as the hotels… so with that being said, we are going to keep hope alive with trying to keep all of the good and bad germs under wraps so we can keep our money flowing and keep the business good.”
Ross Lockhart, a jewellery supervisor at John Bull, also said the department store is doing all it can to prevent the contraction and spread of the disease. “Every station has hand sanitizers and Lysol and we’re also urging the staff to wash their hands as often as they can,” she said.
“We also have an online training site where every supervisor and manager is taking the course which is giving us tips and preventative measures on how to safeguard ourselves.”
Mrs Lockhart said the online course was introduced earlier this week for supervisors to “go through, learn and then turn it over to staff.”
“Once we’ve completed the course, we will train our staff to make them aware of ways to keep themselves safe as well.”
Kara Seymour, a sales representative at Cole Thompson, also told The Tribune their store planned to get hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes and Lysol to protect themselves.
Ms Seymour, who was wearing a face mask while speaking to this newspaper, said staff were on high alert since the store gets hundreds of visitors every day.
“We’re fearful because we have people coming in from different places and you don’t know who has it,” she said.
Asked whether they were concerned about losing customers amidst fears of the virus, she added: “There might be a decline because even some of the people on the cruise ship are scared (to disembark) because they don’t know what they’re going to encounter when they come off the ship.”
Kristique Moncur, a supervisor at Souvenir Outlet, added that the store also has sanitizer on deck and Lysol that they spray every day. “We’re not wearing any masks or gloves or anything, but honestly the minute we hear anyone cough or sneeze, we spray right away.”
Ms Moncur said she has noticed people are fearful because customers who visit the store have even asked them for sanitizer once they notice it on the stand.
“From what I understand, a lot of hand sanitizers are completely out of all of the stores and you can’t find hand sanitizers or Lysol anywhere.”
The Tribune also visited a local food store, where a manager told this newspaper disinfectant products are flying off store shelves.
Bradley Rolle, Centreville Food Market’s assistant manager, said the store has had trouble keeping certain items in stock for long periods of time since the spread of COVID-19.
“There’s a pharmaceutical company next door and as soon as we order from them and stock up it’s gone. As soon as we stock the shelves with hand sanitizers, they gone again.”
Mr Roberts said the shop’s “biggest problem” is not being able to find Lysol.
“I assume it’s because on the back of the Lysol spray you see a type of coronavirus that it actually gets rid of,” he said. “It’s not the COVID-19 so I don’t know why people buy it so much, but I guess it probably helps.”
Still, he said from what he has seen, the shortage has only impacted the availability of disinfecting supplies.
“Nobody is panicking about food,” he assured. “The only thing is they’re just trying to keep themselves sanitized, that’s the only issue.”