Published: 14:44, 27 May 2020
| Updated: 15:14, 27 May 2020
A supermarket was forced to close after a disturbance in which a group harassed shop staff and claimed they had coronavirus.
Police were called to the Co-op food store, off the High Street in Cranbrook, on Sunday following the incident involving two men and two women - and the shop was shut until the following morning while a deep clean was carried out.
The disturbance took place at around 1.50pm, and when police arrived the four people involved had already left.
A spokesman for the Co-op said: "We won’t tolerate aggressive behaviour towards our colleagues who are working hard under immense pressure and can confirm that the police were contacted on Sunday regarding an incident of harassment at Cranbrook High Street’s Co-op.
"The store was temporarily closed as a precaution on Sunday afternoon whilst it underwent a deep clean."
Kim Fletcher, chairman of Cranbrook and Sissinghurst Parish Council, condemned the actions of the group - which he said deprived the community of an important facility while the store was closed.
He said: "It's upsetting that when the majority of residents are supporting one another, a small minority find it amusing to disrupt so many people's lives and livelihoods."
Aggression towards retail workers during the Covid-19 pandemic has led to calls for tougher action against those who attack "heroic" key workers.
Prior to the outbreak of the virus, data data from the Co-op revealed a four-fold increase in violent incidents and abuse in its stores since 2017.
In the first 60 days of 2020, one hundred staff at the chain faced abuse each day - and 12 were violently attacked.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: "Despite carrying out this crucial job in the most challenging circumstances, hard-working staff are still subject to violence and abuse.
"The BRC is calling for tougher sentences for people who assault retail workers as no one should have to go to work fearing violence or threats."
A police spokesman said: "Kent Police was called at around 1.50pm on Sunday regarding two men and two women who were reported to be causing a disturbance and claimed they had coronavirus symptoms at a store in Cranbrook High Street.
"Officers attended the scene where the four people had left prior to their arrival."
Anyone with information about this incident should call the appeal line on 01622 604100, quoting 24-0633
More by this authorRhys Griffiths
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