BBC News

Wales lockdown: What 'essential' items can I buy?

media captionPeople have mixed thoughts about whether non-essential items should be sold

A ban on the sale of "non-essential" items during Wales' firebreak lockdown has caused confusion and frustration among some shoppers - but others say it has kept them at home.

A licensing expert said guidance around what "should" be sold was at the heart of the issue, while the law requiring people to "stay at home" was clear.

On Tuesday, the Welsh Government published a list of items ministers said should be allowed to be sold in supermarkets after retailers said they were in a "difficult position" without a defined list.

The government also said customers should be able to ask for non-essential items in exceptional circumstances.

One woman had previously said she was unable to buy sanitary products at one store, which the Welsh Government said was wrong.

The government guidance allows food and drink retailers, newsagents, pharmacies, chemists, building supplies and hardware stores, among others, to remain open.

But the same guidance says those that stock a wide range of goods, such as supermarkets, should not sell things such as clothes and homeware products because fashion and home furnishing stores are not allowed to remain open.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething had said retailers should use "common sense" and there would be a "very small number" of cases where there would be a genuine need to buy a non-essential item in a supermarket.

image captionSmoke and carbon monoxide detectors cordoned off in one store

Non-essential items include electrical goods, telephones, clothes, toys and games, and garden products.

But ministers have since issued a list of items "we consider that the regulations allow" to be sold in supermarkets:

  • Food and drink
  • Products linked to the sale of food and drink - mainly disposable items used for the preparation and storage of food like kitchen foil, food bags and cling film but also basic products necessary to prepare and eat food and drink
  • Products for washing clothes and for cleaning and maintaining the home, including batteries, light bulbs and fuel
  • Toiletries and cosmetic products, including toilet rolls and sanitary products
  • Pharmaceutical products
  • Baby products including equipment, clothes and nappies
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Stationery and greetings cards

Licensing lawyer Gerald Gouriet QC said the guidance had been "clumsily written and confusing" as it states "shops that sell multiple products should not be allowed to sell products sold by a shop that has been required to close".

"The guidance is being promulgated as if it is enforceable in law... it isn't," he said.

However, a Welsh Government spokesperson said it was enforceable, citing health protection regulations that relate to coronavirus restrictions.

image copyrightRose Voon
image captionToys on a supermarket shelf cordoned off from sale

More than 64,000 people have put their names to a petition calling for supermarkets to be allowed to sell "non-essential" items during lockdown.

"We do not agree for example that parents should be barred from buying clothes for their children during lockdown while out shopping," it said.

image copyrightukmanimal100
image captionDemonstrators in Llandudno on Sunday called for lockdown restrictions to be lifted

More than 100 protesters against Covid-19 restrictions demonstrated on the seafront at Llandudno on Sunday, watched by several police officers.

Some held placards claiming "tyranny is spreading faster than the virus".

Other people have vented their frustrations on social media, and some have said they agree with the lockdown measures.

Pam Jones from Gwynedd took to the BBC Wales News Facebook page to say "what maybe non-essential to one person could be very essential to another".

Sian Owens from Neath Port Talbot said the "ban of selling non-essential items has made sure that I have stayed in all weekend".

Eleri Morgan, also from Neath Port Talbot, said she went to buy a replacement mop head to clean up after her dogs and was surprised to find the aisle cordoned off.

"The cleaning aisle was open, but the homeware section was shut off," she said.

"It's like they hadn't had particular guidance, so they had closed off the whole aisle, including buckets and mops."

North Wales Police said a man has been charged with criminal damage after display coverings were allegedly removed from shelves at Tesco in Bangor, Gwynedd, on Friday.

In a separate incident, a man walked into a supermarket in Newport wearing only his boxer shorts, socks and trainers, saying "clothes were non-essential" when he was questioned by staff.

Chris Noden told ITV's Good Morning Britain he "wanted to prove the point".

The lockdown in Wales runs until 9 November following an increase in Covid-19 cases.

Related Topics

  • Newport
  • Llandudno
  • Coronavirus lockdown measures
  • Bangor
  • Wales business

More on this story

  • Wales lockdown: Tesco 'wrong' to say period products 'not essential'