The Co-op has become the latest supermarket chain to say it will not enforce new mask wearing rules to avoid their staff being abused by customers.
Mask rules were brought back in on Tuesday after concerns about the Omicron coronavirus variant. Supermarkets are taking a light touch approach with Tesco, Aldi, Lidl and Iceland not challenging customers. Industry body The British Retail Consortium said it is up to police to enforce face mask rules, not retailers.

Co-op policy director Paul Gerrard told Radio 5 Live that while Co-op would put up signs to remind people to wear masks, staff would not refuse to serve customers who were not wearing one.

“We have seen throughout the pandemic that the enforcement of social distancing rules has been a flashpoint for enormous levels of violence and abuse against my colleagues, and we will not put our colleagues at risk,” he said.

There was a rise in violence towards shop workers before the pandemic, and that rise has continued, he said.