The Co-op has become the latest major UK supermarket to begin selling both reusable and disposable face masks in its stores.
The supermarket’s entire 2600 store estate will now sell non-medical grade face masks as the government prepares to make them mandatory for public transport next week.
The re-usable masks, which can reportedly be worn up to 20 times and are machine washable, will cost £3 each, while a pack of five disposable masks costs £3 also.
Like its rival Aldi, which also began selling face masks in its stores this week, Co-op stressed that these were non-medical in a bid to free up PPE for frontline workers.
“We know it’s important to reserve valuable PPE for health and care workers so these are not suitable for medical use but have been designed with customers in mind and are just one way we can be careful, along with social distancing and washing our hands,” a spokesperson said.
While reusable face masks have been available from online retailers like Asos and marketplace Etsy for some time, supermarkets have until now been largely reluctant to stock them over fears of depriving NHS staff of the equipment, which has been in short supply since the outbreak began.
However, most major supermarkets are now expected to begin selling masks by the end of the month as they prepare for social distancing measures to continue long after lockdown subsides.
Non-essential retailers are due to open on Monday, and while it is “recommended” that shoppers wear masks in enclosed public spaces, it has not yet been made mandatory as it has in other countries.