Winnipeggers appeared to be on their best behaviour as they shopped under new restrictions Friday, even as a union that represents grocery store workers had feared there would be confrontations over a ban on the sale of non-essential items.

Store employees had erected yellow caution tape and plastic coverings over items such as greeting cards, books, toys, jewelry and makeup. Those are just some of the items banned from being sold as of 12:01 a.m. Friday under a new public health order designed to tamp down escalating COVID-19 cases. 

Despite concern expressed by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union following the announcement of the order on Thursday, shoppers appeared to be compliant.

The union had feared there would be disagreements if shoppers tried to buy items deemed non-essential, and that cashiers and store employees would be forced to deal with disputes. UFCW represents 7,000 workers at grocery stores, including Safeway and Superstore. The union had asked management to hire security staff, if necessary, to keep disputes from boiling over.

Top doc to revisit restriction on gift cards

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Gift cards, which had not been removed or covered up as of Friday afternoon, are currently considered non-essential.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Gift cards, which had not been removed or covered up as of Friday afternoon, are currently considered non-essential.

Manitoba’s chief public health officer admits a public health order may be unintentionally hurting low-income earners.

The order prohibits the sale of gift cards and pre-paid credit cards, which are used by people who don’t have a credit card to make online purchases.

Manitoba’s chief public health officer admits a public health order may be unintentionally hurting low-income earners.

The order prohibits the sale of gift cards and pre-paid credit cards, which are used by people who don’t have a credit card to make online purchases.

“We had to put these targeted, very restrictive, black-and-white restrictions in,” said Dr. Brent Roussin.

He said the issue deserves a second look.

“This is something we’re going to look at in the near future… because having access to these could make online purchases much easier for people who don’t have a credit card,” he said Friday.

“These are so restrictive I am sure this won’t be the last thing (to be adjusted),” he said.

But at the Superstore on Sargent Avenue Friday, there was no indication people were prepared to argue over non-essential items.

One shopper said it appeared people were following the rules.

"I really appreciate that people are trying to social distance," said Denise Borys, while holding onto her packed shopping cart. "People are trying to be safe and it seems like it’s less of a crowd, too. People are staying in and are only going out when they need their essential products and that’s a positive thing to see."

A lineup had formed to get into Superstore. Red markings painted on the ground were spaced two metres apart to ensure shoppers remained socially distanced. No one without a mask tried to enter the store. Workers stationed at the entrance ensured capacity was kept to 25 per cent.

No shopper complained when told they’d have to wait outside until spaced freed up.

"It doesn’t really matter to me… we just take our time, go about it, try to stay away from other people shopping and get the stuff we need. There’s no rush," said John Shevagegit. "This is a normal day for us, nothing is changing with our shopping."

Borys added she is OK with non-essential products being off-limits.

"There are no other items I need other than the food products," she said. "So, I really am fine with them closing off the non-essentials. I don’t need them."

A similar scene played out at a Shoppers Drug Mart outlet on Henderson Highway, which had taped off makeup, wrapping paper, greeting cards and other non-essential products. 

kellen.taniguchi@freepress.mb.ca