Allegations that Waterstone's endangered its staff's lives by forcing them to work over the weekend have been dismissed as "utter sh*t" by its CEO James Daunt.

The book retailer announced it would close all stores by the end of trading on Monday, but its online store would remain open. It came just hours before Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that all retailers selling "non-essential goods" must close.

The move also following a wave of criticism over the weekend for its handling of the Coronavirus outbreak and treatment of staff. Several individuals claiming to be Waterstones employees said the business was putting its staff at risk by keeping their stores open.

It was sparked by a Twitter user named Kajsa, who said: “Working in Waterstones today following the lockdown. No hand sanitiser provided, no wipes, no disinfectant, no reduced shop hours, cash still being accepted.

“We're being told by head office that gloves and masks are not permitted, meanwhile administrative staff have all been sent home for their 'safety' but who gives a f*** about the frontline staff who are out there filling Waterstones CEO James Daunt's pockets?”

She added: “Today I witnessed customers openly coughing, the elderly mingling with the general populace, absolutely no social distancing being observed.

“I spent most of my shift feeling sick to my f***ing stomach, tears in my eyes [and I] almost experienced a complete breakdown on the middle of the shop floor.”

Kasja ended with: “We don't want you there. If you're going to ask why we look so miserable, I'm going to be honest and tell you, plainly, that it's because of s***headed, selfish w*****s like you holding us hostage, and that we're all there against our will.”

It also prompted a number of authors call for the retailer to close, including Irvine Welsh and Adam Kay.

Speaking to the i newspaper, James Daunt claimed the apparent workers "were talking such utter sh*t that clearly a number of them were not members of staff".

He insisted that no employee had been forced to work over the weekend and added: “They could stay home for any reason they cared to choose, certainly if [they had experienced] any sort of symptoms or had been in contact with anyone who had. People could stay home from work...for any reason."

Asked about the impact the pandemic would have on the business, Mr Daunt said: "If you close your doors, you have no money coming in. Yes, there are some protections coming from the Government but we have an immense amount of money going out the door. Jobs are absolutely manifestly not safe. That’s the tragedy of this situation.”