WINNIPEG -- By the end of this week, many Sobeys stores across Canada will be devoting the first hour they are open to those most at risk from COVID-19.

In a statement, president and CEP Michael Medline said they’ve seen an “unprecedented number of customers” over the last few days.

“Canadians have been incredibly worried about having the supplies they need to support their families,” he said.

“Our teammates across the country have been hard at work, around the clock, to meet your family’s needs and provide the essentials you need to stay safe and healthy.”

Medline noted that recently one of their franchisee partners in Edmonton announced they would be dedicating a daily shopping hour to “provide the elderly and the vulnerable with a calm, relaxed environment to complete their grocery shopping.”

This idea caught on and other stores in Alberta and Newfoundland began to do the same.

Medline said now many of the stores will be adopting this new practice.

“We are scaling our Seniors Shopping Hour and will be live by Friday this week in many of our stores in our family of brands,” he said.

“We’ll devote the first hour of operations at many of our stores to those most vulnerable and those who require extra attention, particularly seniors.”

Medline noted the government has said those most at-risk should try and stay home, but they’re trying to make it easier for those who need to go out and get supplies.

“I work with incredible people,” he said.

“Our frontline retail and warehouse employees have been working endless hours. Grocers provide an essential service and the team at Sobeys – and all of our banners – continues to go above and beyond.”