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Violence against staff over face coverings

Supermarket staff are reportedly facing increased levels of violence as customers vent their anger over the tightened enforcement over face coverings.

Co-op Food boss Jo Whitfield said the new demands for staff to enforce mask-wearing and social distancing rules have created a major flashpoint for “abuse, threats and violence”.

The grocer has recorded thousands of incidents every week, and Whitfield said supermarkets should not be expected to make customers cover up as this should be the responsibility of the police force.

In the last year, the Co-op has recorded a 140 per cent increase in crime, with more than 200,000 cases – ranging from those that are violent, non-violent or involve shoplifting.

It comes after supermarkets launched a massive operation to keep Britain fed which put their workers on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis.

Whitfield said shop workers are facing violence for just doing their job.

“They have been spat at and threatened just because they’ve asked customers to respect social distancing,” she said.

“Colleagues have been terrorised with axes and physically punched. Another was hospitalised with a punctured lung and broken ribs after being attacked by three shoplifters over a £10 bottle of spirits.”

Retail workers’ union Usdaw said social distancing enforcement is the top cause of attacks and aggression against workers, whereas before the pandemic it was shoplifting.

Almost one in 10 shop staff say they have been assaulted, more than half have been threatened and almost 90 per cent have been verbally abused.

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