Shopworkers union Usdaw says it "beggars belief" that Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted while case numbers in Northamptonshire remain high.
Face masks are no longer required in stores and on public transport from Thursday (January 31) following last week's announcement by Boris Johnson.
Northampton and Corby are currently among the top ten areas with the highest rates of new positive tests following more than 33,773 new cases were reported across Northamptonshire between January 1 and January 26 while NHS England says 54 people have sadly died while being treated for Covid in county hospitals so far this year.
Usdaw General Secretary, Paddy Lillis, says: “It is deeply disappointing that the government has ploughed on with ending mandatory face coverings in shops despite the concerns of shopworkers.
“It beggars belief that the Government chose to dismiss the concerns of our members and many workers who are desperately worried about restrictions being lifted while case numbers remain high.
"We understand that the government has to scale back Plan B, but surely this should be done in a more measured and gradual manner.
“The government could have eased existing restrictions while maintaining safety measures in businesses that have been open throughout the pandemic — like supermarkets. Face coverings, hand hygiene and social distancing had pretty much become the norm in retail, but constantly changing the rules is unhelpful.
“We continue to ask employers to think about their duty of care to staff and promote existing safety measures to the shopping public. We also ask customers to show their support and respect for shopworkers by continuing to wear face coverings, observe hand hygiene and maintain social distancing.
“Retail staff already face unacceptable levels of abuse and making Covid safety measures guidance only, instead of having the force of law behind them, could put more shopworkers at risk.
"We need more retailers to keep their Covid safety measures in place to avoid confusion and send a clear message to shoppers.
“Wearing a face covering is an important measure to help protect workers who have no option but to interact with the public. Many retail workers are at a greater risk of catching the virus and bringing it home to their families.
"They have worked throughout the pandemic to keep the country fed and deserve to be valued, respected and protected.
Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Morrison's Tesco and Wilko are all asking customers and staff to continue to wear face masks in shops although other retailers and train and bus operators are saying it will be a 'personal choice'.
A Tesco spokesman said today: "To be on the safe side, we'll be encouraging our colleagues to continue to wear face coverings whilst they work and encouraging our customers to do the same when they shop with us."
London Northwestern Railway, which runs trains between Northampton, London and Birmingham, has told passengers: "The government is still recommending people continue to wear a face covering in crowded or indoor spaces where you may come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
"Please consider wearing a face covering if the train or platform is busy.
"We recognise that our passengers will take different approaches to face coverings. Some may choose to wear one at all times, some may wear one occasionally and others may choose not to wear one, or not be able to for medical reasons.
"Whatever applies to you, please be considerate to people around you in our stations and on our trains."