BASINGSTOKE council is urging shoppers to be respectful to retail staff after shopkeepers shared the abuse they have faced during the pandemic.

Environmental health officers have been visiting food retailers around the borough to check how they are keeping staff and the public safe.

A spokesman for the authority said many of the shops had good Covid controls and highlighted the steps Cobbs Farm Shop in Manydown has in place.

They said: "Staff have been wearing masks and visors, controlling numbers of people in the shop, maintaining social distancing and providing hand sanitiser for visitors."

However, the authority said that frontline retail workers have been experiencing verbal abuse for enforcing the face mask policy.

The current restrictions mean unless you are medically exempt, the public must wear face masks when entering shops or supermarkets.

The spokesman said: "During these visits we have been concerns to hear that other shop staff in the borough have experienced abuse from members of the public when they are asked to put on a face covering.

They urged shoppers to treat employees with respect, continuing: "Please be respectful and reduce the risk to staff and others by wearing a face covering if you are able to."

Basingstoke and Deane entered national lockdown on Tuesday, January 5 with all non-essential retail, hospitality and leisure closed.

In England, unless you are exempt you must wear a face covering by law when in setting including shops, supermarkets and indoor shopping centres.

The council has issued guidance for members of the public when shopping in Basingstoke under current conditions.

This includes wearing a face mask in shops, supermarkets and indoor shopping centres, sanitising your hands upon entry of stores and maintaining a safe distance of two metres from all other shoppers and staff. This includes routes into and out of the store.

Last March, amid national reports of stockpiling, The Gazette spoke to supermarket workers who encountered verbal and physical threats of violence in their line of work.

One employee, who asked to remain anonymous, described a number of incidents they were subjected to as supermarkets buckled under the increased volume of customers.

Speaking at the time, he said one man started threatening him over the lack of bread supply. "He got in my face because we had no bread. He was swearing, shouting at me and then threatened to fight me," the employee recounted.