TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he will make some calls and ask major grocery stores to stay open over the holiday weekend in order to prevent a surge of shoppers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Major grocery chains have been posting notices to social media asking customers to shop for their Easter or Passover meals early in the week to avoid crowding on Thursday, as the stores will be closed Friday and Sunday.

Speaking to reporters at a news conference Monday afternoon, Ford said that it was “absolutely critical” for stores to stay open to prevent large groups from gathering in light of new physical distancing rules in the province.

He said he would ask Vic Fedeli, the minister of economic development, job creation and trade, to look into the situation and will personally call the CEOs of the six major chains to ask them to stay open.

At the same time, the premier asked that residents heed the advice and do their shopping early. He also suggested skipping the home cooked meals and ordering in.

“If anyone, if they have the money and they can order takeout and get it delivered or picked up, it takes the pressure off the retail system as well and puts a little bit of money into these restaurants struggling to stay afloat.”