The gesture, which was widely reported, was welcomed by stressed out medics working on the frontline against the coronavirus Covid-19.
But a sign was later put up inside the Costa branch at the Vic, where there are a number of virus victims being treated, saying: “We are no longer offering the NHS free drink promotion.
One furious customer said: “This is absolutely disgusting. I believe you should be aware of how the people who try to save our entire human race are being treated.
“The worst part being that it’s only the NHS staff that [currently] have access to it.”
Last Monday, Costa said in a tweet it was closing its stores because of the pandemic, and vowed: “We will do our best to keep Costa stores open in hospitals, where we will continue to provide free takeaway coffee for the next two weeks to the NHS workers who are at the forefront of this crisis.”
A spokesman told The Gazette it “updated” its NHS giveaway two days later, and said: “We gave away 250,000 hot coffees to key workers in the NHS last week and, from this Monday, will be delivering 250,000 Costa Coffee ready-to-drink cans into these hospitals with a Costa Coffee store in them.
“The decision to move from hot coffee to our coffee cans has been made to protect both these key workers and our store teams working within hospitals.
“In addition, we have committed to giving away one million coffee cans to key workers both in and outside of the NHS who are working at the forefront of this crisis.
“These cans have already started to land up and down the country, including at 999 and 111 call centres.”
The chain’s boss, Jill McDonald, said the response to the free hot drinks offer had been “overwhelming”, and said baristas had “found it increasingly hard to follow the social distancing requirements to keep everyone safe”.
She said she hoped medics “understand that the decision has been made to protect both” them and Costa workers.
“Thank you again to all those NHS heroes and key workers for all the great work you are doing.”
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