MONTREAL -- As society braces for the impacts of COVID-19, grocery stores are reducing their business hours.

Starting on Thursday, Metro stores will temporarily reduce its business hours starting March 19 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Monday to Sunday under the Metro, Metro Plus, Super C, Food Basics and Marche Richelieu banners.

Adonis supermarkets will be open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Premiere Moisson will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Provigo and Maxi banner stores will also reduce their hours, closing at 8 p.m. each night. "We have proceeded with the removal of bulk items, closing the self-serve counters, removing tables from the bistro corner and discontinuing service at the fish counter. We no longer accept the return of bottles and other refundable containers," said a spokesperson for Loblaw, which owns Provigo and Maxi.

"Due to the increased demand and to ensure the availability of our products, we impose a limit of two per customer on certain items. We want all our customers and their families to be able to take advantage of our promotional offers," the spokesperson said in an email.

Fear of prolonged isolation and food shortages has caused some to crowd grocery stores, hoard supplies and empty shelves. But officials insist there will be no lack of food.

Reduced business hours will give grocery store employees a break, Metro spokesperson Genevieve Gregoire said, after what has been a chaotic week. "This measure will allow our teams to restock the stores, apply the hygiene measures in effect and, of course, give our employees the chance to rest during this hectic period," she said.

Service counters at Metro: butcher, fish and deli counters, for example, will remain open. But bulk counters -- self-service areas where clients can serve themselves nuts, olives and other products -- are closing.

Quebec has 94 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Fear of the virus' spread has halted business, academic and cultural activity across North America as many self-isolate.

People should wash their hands, remain calm and stay away from gatherings, health officials warn. 

With files from CTV Montreal's Angela Mackenzie