A store owner has described how he felt "emotionally exhausted" after episodes in which customers had abused members of staff as they asked them to adhere to social distancing rules in the shop.
A tweet issued over the weekend by Scally’s SuperValu in Clonakilty gained national prominence as it said "unfortunately, some of you feel that it is acceptable to verbally abuse them [staff] when requested to observe the new guidelines imposed as a result of Covid-19".
Store owner Eugene Scally elaborated today, stating that some people were getting angry, throwing their baskets on the floor and being verbally abusive, adding: "Sometimes the body language is worse than the verbal."
The shop is a pioneer of autism-friendly shopping and Mr Scally said local people have not caused any difficulty and were grateful for the efforts made by staff to ensure a safe shopping experience for everyone.
But he said visitors to the area from the middle of Easter week had created difficulties.
"I went home out of here Friday and I was emotionally exhausted," he said, referring to "people that are impossible to deal with".
"They just don’t seem to get it, that this Covid thing is here and it’s going to be here for a while.
"Everyone has to feel safe."
Regarding the response to the series of tweets he said: "It’s like we have released a valve.
"My priority is my team in the store - they have been brilliant."
He said he has lost between 15 and 20 workers for periods of time due to stress and anxiety and other health concerns, meaning it is essential to protect the welfare of those still working.
Mr Scally also said that if required, he will call gardaí if the situation warrants it regarding an abusive customer.
The trade union which represents retail workers, Mandate, said it has also received reports of abuse of their members from the public during the Covid-19 outbreak.
A spokesman for Mandate said in one instance two workers, originally from Mongolia, were spat at in a store because the assailant believed they were from China.
The spokesman said a number of retail workers are also ringing in sick due to stress or because they are cocooning, which places greater pressure on those still working in the stores.
Mandate recently published the results of a survey of 7,000 retail workers in 300 separate businesses, which showed almost half of retail stores are not adhering to social distancing guidelines.
The survey also showed that 29% of those questioned said they have insufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), while 23% said shopping trolleys or baskets are not regularly sanitised where they worked and 21% said they had insufficient hand sanitiser. Almost one-fifth of those surveyed said there are insufficient protective shields/screens.
Mandate General Secretary John Douglas said of the findings: “The results of this survey are very worrying."
He added it is clear that some employers need to do more to protect their staff and by association their customers.