WELSH ministers caused more chaos today as they said that non-essential products could be sold in “exceptional circumstances – as they considered rowing back on the draconian new lockdown rules.
Leader Mark Drakeford has banned the sale of non-essential goods during the fortnight long firebreaker lockdown – sparking fury among Welsh residents.
The Welsh Government is due to discuss the ban today – after photos of books, greetings cards, and even clothes were cordoned off in supermarkets over the weekend.
Mr Drakeford said “common sense” would need to be used during the two-week fire-break.
Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething has said that supermarkets in the country can sell non-essential items during the firebreak lockdown in “exceptional circumstances” – in a significant climb-down.
He told Sky News today: “We’re looking to have that clarity so you don’t see cards, for example, sealed up in one shop but available in another.
“We want the clarity on the principle that if there really are exceptional circumstances when someone needs what would otherwise be a non-essential item, that can happen as well.
“We want that clarity because this potentially overshadows the much bigger issue of having a firebreak to save people’s lives.”
It came as Tesco was today forced to apologise after banning the sale of sanitary products in one of its stores because of barmy Welsh lockdown rules.
A female shopper told how her local branch sealed off the aisle selling period products and refused to sell her any.
The supermarket giant originally blamed the Welsh government for the scandal, claiming the products could not be sold because they were deemed “non-essential”.
But after sparking a Twitter storm, they issued a swift apology and said it was a mistake by the local supermarket.
Andrew RT Davies, shadow health minister for the Welsh Conservatives, said the ban on supermarkets in Wales selling non-essential items during the country’s firebreak lockdown “must be dropped today”.
Mr Davies said the “chaos and confusion” of a woman incorrectly being told she could not buy sanitary products at a supermarket was a direct result of the ban.
“This ludicrous policy has caused real anger and it’s not fair on staff working in our supermarkets and the general Welsh public who are now at their wits’ end with Labour ministers,” he added
“The Welsh Labour Government has rushed out a policy that was not even understood by the country’s largest supermarket and that’s the fault of the First Minister and his colleagues.”
Welsh shopper Katie was furious when she discovered she could not buy sanitary towels at the supermarket.
Tweeting the supermarket giant to complain, posting: “Can you explain why I was told today that I can’t buy PERIOD PADS as I’m sure they are essential to women ?!!!
“But I can buy alcohol – it doesn’t make sense.”
A customer services rep at the chain said they were acting on the orders of the Welsh government.
The rep tweeted: “We understand how frustrating these changes will be for our Welsh customers.
“However, we have been told by the Welsh Government not to sell these items for the duration of the firebreak lockdown.”
The Welsh government scrambled to kill off the claim, insisting that period products are essential.
They posted: “This is wrong – period products are essential. Supermarkets can still sell items that can be sold in pharmacies.
“Only selling essential items during firebreak is to discourage spending more time than necessary in shops.
“It should not stop you accessing items that you need.”
And Tesco scrambled to delete its earlier post and apologise for the scandal.
They wrote: “Clearly sanitary products are an essential purchase and I’m so sorry to see that one of our stores has them restricted at the moment.”
They vowed to look into the case further.
Today Mr Gething said last week was “one of the deadliest” in the country since the start of the pandemic, with more than 60 people dying with Covid-19.
There are 616 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Welsh hospitals, the highest figure since May 24 and up 26% on last Sunday.
Fifty-six people are in critical care in Wales, an increase of 14%.
“This is not an easy time for any of us in Wales,” Mr Gething said.
“For the next two weeks, we must all live with a new and very tough set of regulations.”
But the furore heaps fresh pressure on leftie Welsh leader Mr Drakeford, who has been accused of acting like the Stasi by dictating exactly what supermarkets can and cannot sell.
Kids clothes and books have all been roped off to stop punters buying them because they are deemed “non essential”.
So, what does count as essential in Wales?
The Welsh public can buy products that would normally sold in:
- Food and drink retailers (including off licences)
- Building supplies and hardware stores
- Pharmacies and chemists
- Bicycle shops
- Petrol stations
- Garages and vehicle hire businesses
- Post offices, banks, building societies and similar
- Pet shops
- Agricultural and aquacultural supplies shops
- Livestock markets and auctions
- Batteries, light bulbs and rubber gloves may continue to be sold.
The rules state: “Businesses which would normally sell a range of products in their stores may only sell those items which fall into the categories above.
“This is likely to mean some areas of stores should be closed to customer access. It will be important though for such stores to manage access to different categories of goods in a way that ensures customers and staff can circulate safely within the store.
“Some products may need to remain available to avoid creating unnecessary constraints on a mixed product aisle to the safe circulation of customers.”
The Welsh government insists the draconian orders are fair to slash the time people spend on shops.
But after fury erupted among shoppers, Mr Drakeford has said supermarkets will be given more discretion over what is classified as non essential.
He said last night: “We’ll be reviewing how the weekend has gone with the supermarkets and making sure that common sense is applied.
“Supermarkets can sell anything that can be sold in any other type of shop that isn’t required to close. In the meantime, please only leave home if you need to.”