The Ministry of Labour will be launching an enforcement blitz this weekend in York Region to ensure businesses are following the proper protocols to protect workers and customers from contracting COVID-19.

Non-essential businesses remain open in York Region during what is traditionally one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year.

A much more subdued Black Friday weekend is expected in Toronto and Peel Region as the two areas remain under a 28-day lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In the province's two COVID-19 hot spots, only essential retailers are permitted to stay open but non-essential businesses can still offer curbside pickup and delivery and restaurants can remain open for takeout and delivery also.

"It's not open season up here in York Region," Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti warned shoppers coming from Toronto and Peel.

He said inspectors with the Ministry of Labour, along with bylaw officers and police, will be out making sure businesses are in compliance with all of the rules set out by public health officials.

He said some businesses in the region have already been caught breaking the rules.

"Costco in Markham has been charged as has the T&T grocery store at Warden and Steeles, so we'll be out there," he said on Friday morning. "(I have) a clear message to the retailers-- you better control the number of people that are coming inside."

In a news release issued Friday evening, York Region said inspectors visited 439 establishments earlier in the day.

As a result, six businesses were charged under the Reopening Ontario Act and Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act.

The businesses include Vaughan Mills Shopping Centre (three concurrent charges), Xclusive Fades Aurora, Chef 88 Elite Fine Dining, Designer Depot, Cellion, and Haight Ashbury.

“We've gone past the stage where we were just educating people. Now they are very much into reinforcement,” Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s medical officer of health, said in an interview with CP24.

He said they will be publishing the outcome of the blitz on their website weekly.

Earlier, Dr. Kurji said the stores that were given citations for failing to adhere to physical distancing rules were found to be in compliance after inspectors did a follow-up visit. 

“Our staff were really saddened to see that the rules weren’t being followed. We generally like to work with businesses very closely and most of them have been very compliant but it was time for us to move in," he said.

“We want to keep all residents safe. We know that we can expect people coming from Toronto and Peel even though the advice is that they should be staying home, that they should only being going out for essential visits.”

He said that there are plans in place to prevent overcrowding in stores, including at York Region malls.

“With the malls, they have taken steps to ensure that the different stores don’t necessarily feed back into the mall and they have many ambassadors as well so we are hoping that everything is well controlled,” Kurji said.

According to Scarpitti's office, the operators of Costco in Markham were handed a citation for issues with physical distancing and a follow up visit revealed that they are now in compliance.

Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said Ministry of Labour inspectors have been carrying out community safety blitzes since Thanksgiving and teams will be in York Region this coming weekend.

"We've created a team of 200 officers and inspectors from across government really to go out to businesses in regions like Toronto, Peel and York... (and) tell businesses how they can really enhance safety measures in their businesses to keep workers safe and keep customers safety," McNaughton said.

"Eighty-five per cent of businesses are complying so overwhelmingly businesses have truly stepped up. This is really about the government helping businesses and ensuring that proper protocols are put in place."

He said since March, Ministry of Labour inspectors have conducted 28,000 investigations related to COVID-19 and 26,000 orders have been issued.

"Keep in mind that there are literally hundreds of thousands of businesses so, as I said, most of them are doing a great job," McNaughton added.

"There is always bad actors out there and will work to improve the standards everywhere."

He said a total of 40 work sites and workplaces have been shut down since March, but noted that most of those were construction sites that were ordered to close at the start of the pandemic. He added that compliance has dramatically improved at construction sites since the spring.