Posted: Tue 27th Oct 2020

Welsh Government set to publish new guidance supermarket non essential item ban following fierce backlash

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Oct 27th, 2020

The Welsh government is expected to publish guidance today on what supermarkets can and can’t sell during the firebreak lockdown period.

There have been calls for the Welsh government to ditch the restriction on the sale of non-essential items – which came into force at 6pm on Friday.

The move has seen a fierce backlash from the public, an online petition against the non-essential item restrictions passed 60,000 signatures.

Since Friday there have been images circulating online of aisles selling clothing, books, cleaning products, electrical goods and magazines either closed off or covered in plastic.

Opposition politicians have waded in on the Welsh government over the issue which, first minister Mark Drakeford said, had been put in place to create a “level the playing field with small and high street stores” and to stop people lingering in supermarket aisles.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) raised concerns about the closure of all non-essential retail, stating that it would create an unfair advantage if supermarkets were able to continue selling non-essential items through the firebreak lockdown.

A Conservative MS also raised the issue of supermarkets selling clothing and hardware during the previous lockdown and said it felt ‘very wrong.’

Speaking in a Senedd committee last Thursday, Russell George MS, himself a director of a small shop in Powys said: “In regards to which businesses are required to close, in the previous lockdown there were businesses such as clothing, hardware shops were required to close.

“Businesses such as Asda, Morrisons, Tesco, were selling those items of clothing and hardware, and it felt very wrong and disproportionate to the small businesses.”

Monday brought fresh confusion after Tesco wrongly told a shopper they couldn’t sell sanitary pads in Wales.

Health minister Vaughan Gething said he would make it to clear supermarkets they can use some discretion to sell non-essentials to those in genuine need, but that the rules wouldn’t be changed, he said:

“If we simply end the rules we have on non-essential retail, we’ll see more mixing, the stay at home message will be less effective by giving more people more reasons to leave the house.

“If we do that, we simply couldn’t change the rules in supermarkets, because the unfairness that would provide for smaller retailers who are already, and you’ll see this picture in Ireland, where smaller retailers are complaining bitterly about the fact that larger stores are selling items they are prevented from doing so.

“If we effectively see that non-essential retail has opened up again, we’ll have to revisit the public health advice we’ve got about the effectiveness of the fire break.

“I certainly don’t want to be in a position where we have to roll back on the choice we’ve made that the shortest possible intervention to make the maximum difference.”

Jane, a supermarket worker from Mold said she was really anxious going to work Saturday morning.

She told BBC Radio Wales this morning: “The whole of the clothing department is blocked off, toys, household items, electrical all blocked off as well and it is certainly causing a lot of frustration with customers.”

Jane said a few customers have “behaved really awfully” she said, “one gentleman came in with no mask to film in the store, shouting abuse, telling us that we were all robots to the government and that we’d all be chipped soon, he said we should stand up to the government and not do what they tell us.”

Jane said: “We have had general frustration from other customers who complain that perhaps they wanted to buy something for the home and cant.”

A lot of people tend to sort of mutter under their voice behind us trying to sort of provoking a reaction.” She said.

Jane said: “It certainly isn’t right that shop workers should have to put up with that kind of behaviour.”

She said her store had used its discretion with a customer who was ‘in distress.’

A customer “needed baby clothes, they’d fled from a bad situation and were unable to bring everything that they needed for their baby. We allowed them to purchase what they needed.

They were in a pretty desperate state because they needed that, there was no way you could have said no.”

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