Masks required and temperatures being taken at Nanaimo's Woodgrove Centre

Nanaimo’s Woodgrove Centre is using touchless sensors to take the temperature of visitors and is handing out masks to anyone without a face covering.

Vercancy Wu, shopping centre marketing director, said Tuesday that he understands that this is the first shopping centre in B.C. to require both masks and temperature checks.

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Temperature checks and masks are required at some businesses in Canada and have been implemented for many months in other countries in efforts to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. For example, Walmart Canada made masks mandatory in August.

Masks are being handed out free to customers for now, Wu said.

More than half of the visitors to the shopping centre already wore masks prior to this week, he said. The vast majority of visitors are complying with the requirements for masks and temperature checks.

The shopping centre understands that masks cannot be worn in some circumstances, the shopping centre said.

Bin Wang, chief executive and general manager of Woodgrove, said in a Facebook post: “Please be assured that no one will be insulted, forced or escorted off the property for not wearing a mask under the new measures.

“May it be eating, drinking, or health and personal circumstances, there are various reasons where visitors may be unable to comply.”

Woodgrove, 6631 Island ­Highway North, is one of ­Vancouver Island’s largest shopping centres, with 748,000 square feet of retail space and more than 140 stores and ­services. It typically sees about 5.6 million visitors annually.

Retailers have been ­working hard to protect their staff, ­families and customers, Wang said.

Three of Woodgrove’s four entry points are open with staff providing free masks and operating sensors, Wu said.

The shopping centre was recently acquired by Central Walk, which has imposed these safety measures.

Rises in COVID-19 cases elsewhere in the world, including in South American countries, were a factor in moving forward with the temperature checks and masks, Wu said. B.C. is facing its winter season and there’s a possibility of a second wave of the virus. “Safety is our first concern.”

Also, the demographics of the area mean that a high number of seniors visit the centre and the aim is to protect them; many have already expressed their thanks for the new protocols, he said.

The measures are a pilot project and a new policy is expected in a few weeks, Wu said. Masks will not continue to be free over the long-term.

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