Samantha Thompson is one of several Woodgrove Centre employees who now greet customers at the mall’s entrances to take their temperatures and ensure they’re wearing masks before they enter the shopping centre. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Masks and temperature checks now mandatory to enter Nanaimo’s Woodgrove Centre

Mall says it's the first in B.C. to put the measures in place

People who go shopping at Woodgrove Centre must now pass a temperature check and don masks when they enter the mall.

The mandatory mask policy, brought in by the mall’s new owner Central Walk, was announced online Friday and went into practice when the mall opened Monday morning, making Woodgrove Centre is the first shopping mall in B.C. to require visitors to don masks and submit to temperature checks before entering.

Vercancy Wu, Woodgrove marketing manager, said merchants in the mall have taken extensive measures to protect their customers and staff and the mall should do its part to help ensure everyone’s health. He believes Woodgrove is the first shopping centre in B.C. to require mandatory masks and temperature screening.

“We’ve noticed that we have many seniors on this Island … and, with COVID-19, the main targets, the people at higher risk are the elder people,” Wu said. “So that’s where we want to focus. Although we only have 200 cases [on the Island] since the whole pandemic started, customer safety is our main target.”

Woodgrove now has staff conducting temperature checks at three of the shopping centre’s four entrances and are giving out complimentary masks for customers who don’t have them until Oct. 4.

Entrance 4, located between Hudson Bay and Sport Chek, is now closed, but customers can still enter the mall through either the Hudson’s Bay or Sport Chek entrances where both stores already have staff conducting pre-entry screening.

Valen Tam, Woodgrove Centre transitions coordinator, said the mall did receive some criticism over the new policy, given the low number of cases on the Island, but the Central Walk believe it needs to take precautions since no one knows how the COVID-19 situation could change here. Given experiences around the world including the Lower Mainland, which has been seeing more than 100 new COVID-19 cases each day, it’s best to take steps to try and prevent a similar scenario locally, he said.

“We noticed a lot of retailers are trying their best to keep their families, their staff, safe … As the property owners, our concern shouldn’t just be profit margin. It should be everybody’s safety…” Tam said. “We don’t know if [cases are] going to keep increasing, but we need to create measures. As Woodgrove Centre’s property owners we have a responsibility, as one of the largest hubs in all of Vancouver Island, to keep the community safe.”

In cases where people do not want to wear masks, the mall will respect their reasons for not doing so and won’t ask them to leave, said management.

“We use the term ‘mandatory’ to emphasize the importance of masks in this program, but it’s not actually mandatory because we respect everybody’s individual beliefs,” Tam said. “We want to be able to help out the retailers who are struggling to try and keep their staff safe and their families safe. We want anyone who comes to Woodgrove Centre to be able to go home every day confident that they’re bringing safety home to their families, whether that be shoppers or our retailers’ staff.”

Wu said Woodgrove will test the strategy to see how well it’s working and will do surveys at mall entrances over the next two weeks to determine how best to carry the program forward.

RELATED: Woodgrove Centre posts plans to make masks and temperature checks mandatory

READ ALSO: Nanaimo’s Woodgrove Centre getting ready for return of retailers and shoppers

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