COSTA Coffee is to close the majority of its branches due to the coronavirus after today, Monday.

But the chain is 'doing its best' to keep cafes open in hospitals and will continue to provide free takeaway coffee for NHS workers 'at the forefront of this crisis'.

It comes after store managers set up a petition on in a bid to get all its cafes shut.

A message from chief executive Jill McDonald posted on the company's website today said at Costa Coffee the 'number one priority' was the safety of staff and customers.

She said: "As the need to support social distancing increases, we have taken the decision to temporarily close our stores from this evening, Monday.

Arrangements have been made for staff affected to be paid their 'full average weekly pay over eight weeks'.

The chief executive added: "I want to take this opportunity to thank our store teams, who during a lot of uncertainty over the past few weeks have continued to provide a warm and welcoming environment, and great service to our loyal customers.

"To our customers, thank you for your ongoing support – we know these are difficult and unsettling times and through our community work we hope to be able to continue serving you, and your friends and families in some way."

Costa Express machines will also stay in operation.