BOSSES at a Greenock supermarket have been caught repeatedly flouting coronavirus safety rules and threatened with closure by council enforcement officers.

The Lidl store on Custom House Way has been the focus of a series of secret unannounced visits by health and safety chiefs after serious concerns were expressed by staff.

It is understood that a planned visit in response to a tip-off about 'lax' procedures — which managers were given advance warning of — found nothing amiss.

However, covert return inspections of the store have given rise to a 'formal warning' being issued to Lidl to fix issues identified by the specialist Inverclyde Council officers.

The Telegraph can reveal today that Lidl management continued to breach correct social distancing guidance after being issued with 'advice' by the local authority.

A council spokesman said: "Concerns were raised that the two-metre social distancing rule was not being maintained inside and outside the store.

"In response to a complaint made to the council, enforcement officers paid an initial visit to the premises followed by unannounced follow-up visits.

"Officers observed during the first unannounced visit a lack of social distancing at the store and management were given advice and time to fix the problem.

"When officers returned, it was clear that social distancing was still not being adequately adhered to and a prohibition notice was issued."

Meanwhile, Greenock Lidl staff have told the Telegraph that they are 'stressed out of their boxes' with working conditions in the store.

Our exclusive picture — snapped by a concerned customer — shows a supposedly protective perspex checkout screen secured to the counter with sticky tape.

One worker said: "We tried a partial closure of aisles to allow staff to stock the shelves but were told that this was a fire risk, so it stopped.

"Now we're stocking shelves with customers in very close proximity — there's no social distancing.

"But we've been told to just get on with it."

Another staff member said: "When the health and safety folk came round it was 9am and we had 20-odd customers.

"The assistant manager made people queue outside, so when the inspectors were there everything was fine and there was no shelve stocking going on either.

"The health and safety then came back unannounced and saw a lot amiss and issued the shop with a notice, effectively threatening to shut the place."

The worker added: "I feel that the whole thing is a disgrace and we are being treated like we don't matter.

"Why don't all the area managers come down here to Greenock and sit on the tills and feel what we are feeling?"

The council confirmed that that the prohibition notice issued to Lidl is a 'formal warning of a breach of the government's COVID-19 safety guidelines'.

Their spokesman said: "It advised that all reasonable measures must be taken to ensure the two-metre rule is observed.

"It is the responsibility of management to relay this information to staff.

"While the council does have the power to close premises, we are hopeful in this instance that this will not be required.

"Officers will continue to monitor the situation and provide assistance.

"The rules are in place for everyone’s safety and to help to continue to suppress the spread of this deadly virus, which already caused so much pain in Inverclyde."

Lidl says it has a raft of safety measures in place at the store, including a designated team member at the entrance to manage the volume of people entering at one time,

Bosses also highlighted 'clear communication' reminding customers to maintain a two-metre distance from each other, plus floor markings and dedicated cleaning stations at store entrances.

A spokeswoman for Lidl said: "Ensuring that both our colleagues and customers feel safe in our stores is of the utmost importance to us. 

"We were one of the first supermarkets to introduce protective equipment for our colleagues, including visors, masks and checkout screens, and have continued to make these available, along with gloves and personal refillable hand sanitiser bottles, for our store team. 

"We are working hard to ensure all of our store safety measures are  implemented and maintained appropriately for our customers and colleagues in accordance with government advice and are committed to getting this right. 

"We welcome the additional guidance provided by Inverclyde Council and have taken action to address issues raised."