During Monday’s COVID-19 update, Premier Dwight Ball said the deadline to implement the ban on plastic bans in the province is extended from July 1 to Oct. 1.

“We remain committed to the plastic bag ban, and we acknowledge there are public health risks with reusable bags,” he said during the teleconference.

The decision comes after Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG) senior vice-president Gary Sands sent a letter to Ball on April 3 requesting the delay.

“Right now, in communities across Canada and here in Newfoundland and Labrador, retail grocery stores and their dedicated employees, are essentially operating as a front-line essential service,” reads a part of the letter.

“Within the context of COVID-19, however, many of those front-line staff, quite understandably, do not want to be handling or packaging a reusable bag brought into the store by customers. In many stores across the country, employees are simply refusing outright to use or touch these bags.”

The CFIG said public health agencies in some provinces have already advised stores not to accept reusable bags during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CFIG represents independent grocers in the province, including Coleman’s and Powell’s Supermarkets.

Sands also wrote that the request was in no way an attempt to reopen the debate over plastic bags, but rather a recognition of the unique circumstances retail grocers and their customers currently face.

Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) was a strong advocate of the introduction of the ban in the first place.

MNL president Sheila Fitzgerald issued a statement on Monday after Ball’s announcement.

“MNL respects the direction of the government to extend the implementation of the provincial plastic bag ban until October 1, 2020,” her statement said.

“We are aware of the concerns associated with reusable bags and we are looking for official information regarding the risk associated with using them. Our members are supportive of banning single-use plastic bags. We look forward to getting this important initiative back on track once the current crisis is over.”

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