VICTORIA -- The B.C. government has released several guidelines on how to protect against the spread of COVID-19 for grocery stores and food retailers across the province.

The guidelines, released Sunday, were announced to ensure that businesses in the essential service are reducing the risk of coronavirus exposure as much as possible as people shop for groceries.

The guidelines include increasing sanitation policies in stores, ensuring that clean carry-out bags are available and that customers are not bringing in their own reusable bags, and restrictions on bulk items.

The province also recommends that grocery stores create markers, like tape lines, every 2 metres at checkout lines to encourage physical distancing.

The B.C. government says that while the province is under a ban of gatherings larger than 50 people, grocery stores are exempt from this order.

The province says that larger grocery stores are allowed to hold more than 50 people at one time if they are able to ensure physical distancing is being followed, and that the “spirit of the order” is being respected.

Additional grocery store guidelines include installing hand sanitizer dispensers near doors, pay stations and other high touch locations and limiting the number of employees who handle cash or credit cards.

The province also advises that grocery store employees refrain from coming to work for 14 days if they are feeling unwell, and asks that employees ask customers to return home and use grocery delivery services if they appear to be sick.

“As we continue our efforts to manage and contain the COVID-19 pandemic, retail food and grocery stores play an essential service in every community by ensuring safe and reliable access to food, supplies and other provisions,” says the BC Centre for Disease control in their grocery store guidelines.

“At the same time, it is crucial that everyone – including the grocery and retail sector – adjust how they operate to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19.”

A full list of the province’s guidelines for grocery stores amid the coronavirus pandemic can be found online here

Meanwhile, some local grocery stores have enacted special measures to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, like installing Plexiglas shields for cashiers and creating special opening hours exclusively for elderly shoppers.