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An empty McDonald's restaurant is seen Tuesday, March 17, 2020 in Montreal. They are one of many restaurants that have closed their dining areas and offering only takeout or delivery due to the COVID-19 outbreak.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

One day after Starbucks Canada made a similar move, McDonald’s Canada has decided to close most of its stores in Canada, opting to serve customers at drive-through windows or through delivery only.

The announcements are a sign of the sweeping changes hitting the retail industry in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past week, non-essential retailers across Canada have shut their doors. However, some food retailers, including coffee shops and fast food restaurants, have attempted to continue their services in order to provide meal options to Canadians who are staying home and practicing social distancing.

What can I do to stay safe from COVID-19?

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread through airborne droplets by coughing or sneezing, through touching a surface those droplets have touched, or through personal contact with infected people.

Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly

The World Health Organization recommends regular hand-washing and physical distancing – that is, keeping at least two metres from someone with a cough. If you have to cough or sneeze, do it into your sleeve or a tissue, not your hands. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose if you can.

The CDC says to frequently clean dirty surfaces with soap and water before disinfecting them.

  • If you show symptoms of COVID-19, seek medical attention and do what your health-care provider recommends. That may include staying home from work or school and getting lots of rest until the symptoms go away.

COVID-19 is much more serious for older adults. As a precaution, older adults should continue frequent and thorough hand-washing, and avoid exposure to people with respiratory symptoms.

Check the WHO’s information page for more details on the virus, and The Globe and Mail’s guide of what health officials say is helpful for the public to do or not do about it.

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But as concerns about Canadians’ vulnerability to the virus have ramped up, food retailers have quickly changed their approach – from initially announcing increased cleaning measures, then to closing off in-store seating to offer take-out only. Now it appears these same retailers have begun to decide they cannot safely keep most store operations open.

On Saturday, McDonald's Canada announced that it would no longer offer take-out service and would close its dining rooms as as of midnight. The restaurants will fill orders at drive-through and through delivery services. Like Starbucks, McDonald's said that some restaurants near hospitals and other health care facilities may remain open.

"Our response to COVID-19 is evolving quickly across our restaurants and communities," the company said in a statement. "We have teams working around the clock to continue to adapt our procedures and protocols to reflect guidance from the respective governments, health authorities as well as feedback from our restaurant employees and guests, whose health and well-being remain our highest priority."

On Friday evening when it announced its closures, Starbucks Canada acknowledged that keeping social distancing to a minimum in its coffee shops had been a challenge.

How many coronavirus cases are there in Canada, by province, and worldwide? The latest maps and charts

When does social distancing end? These graphs show where we’re heading and why

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