SHOPPERS should not be meeting in supermarkets for a “social outing”, say leaders, who claim around one in every 15 people in a store has Covid.

The warning, from Basildon Council leader Gavin Callaghan, was accompanied by a stark message to shoppers and staff to wear masks, keep their distance and wash their hands... and not stop for a chat.

Trevor Harp, councillor in charge of health and adult social care in Southend, says he has had reports of shoppers congregating in stores for a social because everywhere is shut.

He said: “We have heard reports that because everywhere else is closed a number of people have been seen congregating in supermarkets and using it as more of a social outing.

“This shouldn’t be happening.

“The advice is out there - please take notice of what we’re saying.”

It comes as supermarkets Tesco, Asda and Waitrose have all said they will deny entry to shoppers who do not wear face masks unless they are medically exempt.

Morrisons shoppers who refuse to wear a mask without a medical exemption will be told to leave, while Sainsbury’s says it will challenge those who flout rules.

Cllr Harp added: “When I went to Tesco’s in Prince Avenue on Wednesday I only saw one lady who wasn’t wearing a mask and should’ve been. The one other person I saw not wearing one was exempt, so I think people are taking it more seriously. They certainly need to be.”

Sadie Hasler, 40, from Southend, added: “I’ve been regularly barged into by people without face masks who show no signs of understanding social distance, so I’m cool with shops enforcing it.”

Mum Faye Axford says she is avoiding stores because of her vulnerable son Callum - who lives with an extremely rare combination of cerebral palsy and neurofibromatosis type one.

The 38-year-old from Benfleet said: “There are so many that don’t wear masks, it doesn’t cover their nose or it just hangs round their neck.

“Even with Callum’s chronic lung disease he can still breathe through a mask.”