The Speaker
Monday, 20 May 2024 – 23:09

Welsh Government will be ‘making sure that common sense is applied’ following anger over non-essential supermarket item rules

First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford has said in a tweet that the Welsh Government will be ‘reviewing how the weekend has gone with the supermarkets and making sure that common sense is applied.’

The tweet on Saturday evening came after widespread anger about supermarkets in Wales not being allowed to sell ‘non-essential’ items during the country’s ‘fire-break’ lockdown which began on Friday.

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Under the lockdown measures, non-essential shops have been forced to close, and under rules set by the Welsh Government, shops that are staying open such as supermarkets cannot sell items deemed to be ‘non-essential’. The rules have seen some supermarkets emptying aisles, while others have blockaded access to them.

Welsh Government guidance published this week stated;

“Products that can’t be sold, but which are normally located amongst goods that can be sold, should ideally either be removed or sealed off, preferably the former.”

“Where these products remain on the shop floor, shops should make it clear to customers that they are not for sale. We expect shops to ensure that these products are not sold, though enforcing this rule need not necessarily be the responsibility of “front line” staff such as those working on the checkout.”

A list of product categories that can be sold has been published in the guidance but has been interpreted in different ways by different retailers. There has also been significant anger from members of the public, who have claimed that some products that cannot be sold are essential – such as underwear or books.

The situation has attracted attention across Wales and beyond. On Saturday, a man attempted to enter a Tesco branch in Newport while wearing just his underpants, in protest at the ban on non-essential items, while customers in other stores have complained of the rules.

Meanwhile, over 34,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Welsh Government to allow supermarkets to sell ‘non-essential’ items during the lockdown. The petition reads:

“We do not agree for example that parents should be barred from buying clothes for their children during lockdown while out shopping. This is disproportionate and cruel and we ask that the decision be reversed immediately.”

As of Saturday evening, the rules remain in force but the situation is to be reviewed.

According to Welsh Government guidance, the rules are to help “maintain a level playing field and to reduce interaction between people away from home”.

People in Wales are currently required to stay at home except for a very limited number of reasons. The fire-break lockdown began on Friday as part of an attempt to get the Coronavirus back under control in the country and is due to end on 9 November 2020.


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