Police force says it will not respond to calls about shoppers who refuse to wear face masks

However, Alison Hernandez, police and crime commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, said officers would not investigate reports of people ignoring the new rule.

“We are moving back into ordinary policing,” she said. “The expectation is that [officers] will only come if there is disorder or violence or something associated with it. They are not going to come to every phone call that someone is not wearing a mask.”

Last week, the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) suggested officers would only intervene over face masks as a “last resort”.

Andrew Goodacre, the CEO of the British Independent Retailer Association, said: “This is not the role of retailers, and we would be concerned any such enforcement may lead to a further increase in the number of threats and abuse shop workers in the UK are currently experiencing.”

It came as a survey found that around half of service workers have faced abuse from customers during the pandemic.

Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) said they had experienced verbal hostility, and more than a quarter (26 per cent) said they had been subjected to physical assault.

Examples ranged from being shouted and sworn at to, in extreme cases, being spat on.

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