United Kingdom

Mark Drakeford says stores can use 'discretion' on non-essential items

Welsh 'trolley police' have sparked fury yet again after a sign saying 'non-essential' items cannot be purchased was placed on a shelf of baby formula milk - just hours after shoppers were told they couldn't buy sanitary towels under the country's firebreak lockdown rules. 

Sales of all non-essential items have been banned in a bid to discourage people from spending more time than necessary in shops and be fair to retailers who have to shut.

However, the restrictions have caused outrage after alcohol is deemed 'essential' but school uniform, vacuum cleaners, hairdryers are not.

And today, images from a Tesco store in Cardiff showed a shelf stacked with baby formula milk by a sign saying 'non-essential' items cannot be sold.   

Furious mothers raged that they can 'buy Babycham but not baby milk' under the rules - which some fear will cause panic-buying from other stores who are allowing sales.

It came just hours after women in Tesco were told they could not buy sanitary towels because the products were also non-essential causing a brief disagreement between Tesco and the Welsh Government as the shop blamed the authority - while it claimed they were wrong. 

Labour leader Mr Drakeford and his team have risked compounding the chaos by saying that shops can now use their 'discretion'.

He said: 'I recognise that there will be some people who for entirely unexpected reasons which they couldn't have foreseen will need to buy items.

'In those circumstances where those welfare reasons are at stake, we will make sure that our supermarkets understand they have the discretion to apply the rules differently.'

Welsh 'trolley police' have sparked fury yet again after a sign saying 'non-essential' items cannot be purchased was placed on a shelf of baby formula milk - just hours after shoppers were told they couldn't buy sanitary towels under the country's firebreak lockdown rules 

The sign on the shelf in a Cardiff Tesco has sparked outrage, with mother-of-two Michelle Morgan-Davies, 31, (pictured) saying: 'Formula milk is the definition of essential'

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said supermarkets can use 'discretion' when deciding what items are non-essential after overzealous Tesco 'trolley police' told women they couldn't buy sanitary towels

A Tesco shelf stocked with Aptamil baby formula was pictured with a sign reading: 'In line with government guidelines, we are unable to sell non-essential items at this time. Thank you for understanding.'

New mother Zoe Price, 27, fumed: 'This is crazy - I can buy a Babycham but I can't buy baby milk.

'I don't know who is right or wrong anymore. It could be a Tesco mistake or it could be the Government rules - whatever it shows that the whole situation is completely crazy.

'Nobody knows what is going on. The danger is that people will follow their own rules and that could put us all in danger.' 

Mother-of-two Michelle Morgan-Davies, 31, said: 'Formula milk is the definition of essential. Stirring up worry like this will only cause mums to panic buy in the shops that are selling it.

'Pregnant women and new mums have had a rough ride from all of the restrictions during the pandemic. 

'Now it's hard to find cheap baby clothes in the few shops you are allowed to go into. It's a worry families don't need.'

A Tesco shelf stocked with Aptamil baby formula was pictured with a sign reading: 'In line with government guidelines, we are unable to sell non-essential items at this time. Thank you for understanding'

Nichola-Louise Smith found the sanitary towel section closed off at the Tesco store in St Mellons, Cardiff, yesterday

Ms Smith posted an image from her Tesco which showed sanitary products caged off from members of the public

A Tesco spokesperson said: 'Clearly baby formula is an essential item and remains on sale in all our stores. This sign is in the wrong place, and at no point were these products unavailable to buy.' 

Earlier today, two women in Tesco in Cardiff were told they could not buy sanitary towels. 

Details of the extraordinary restriction were tweeted by the supermarket online after a complaint from a shopper, known only as Katie from the Cardiff store.

It sparked a brief disagreement between Tesco and the Welsh Government as the shop blamed the authority - while it claimed they were wrong.

Katie had said: '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.'

Then, in a now-deleted post Tesco responded: 'We understand how frustrating these changed 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.'

There were barriers also in place which stopped customers from accessing the isles where the items were being displayed

Tesco told a shopper called Katie that the items could not be solder under Welsh rules, sparking widespread online outrage 

It prompted the authority to get involved and issue a terse statement saying the supermarket, whose location is not known, were incorrect.

The Welsh Government insisted: '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.'

Tesco this morning issued an apology and said pictures of barriers near the items were actually only there after a police incident, unrelated to the new rules.

A spokesperson told MailOnline: 'Sanitary products are essential items and are available to customers in all of our stores in Wales.

'Due to a break-in, this area was closed temporarily in one store for a police investigation, but is now open again.

'The reply to this customer, which implied these products were non-essential, was sent by mistake and we're very sorry for any confusion caused.'

It is understood the fencing was being urgently reversed.

It came as rules descended further into confusion today as ministers said people can buy non-essential goods in supermarkets - but only if they are essential.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced a rethink of the terms of the 17-day 'firebreak' coronavirus lockdown after admitting that the public was 'fed up' and 'common sense' was needed.

A backlash has been gathering pace, with tens of thousands of people signing a petition.

Supermarkets have actively taped off shelves of ordinary goods, blocking off entire aisles or covering them in plastic.  

Health minister Vaughan Gething said customers should be allowed to buy 'otherwise non-essential goods' if there were 'exceptional circumstances' that meant they were essential. 

Sainsbury's in Cardiff had put up plastic sheeting to prevent shoppers from buying items that were judge non-essential

A notice placed on the coverings inside Cardiff's Sainsbury's explained the area was currently closed and out of bounds

The temporary closing saw shoppers able to see items but have them out of reach under the hard line new regulations

Buying underwear is off limits after the draconian move by the Welsh authorities, which will last for another two weeks 

Lockdown climbdown? 

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford appeared to be heading for a climbdown over strict measures he introduced last week.

The politician had furiously defended the plans when quizzed over them before the weekend.

But after two days of chaos he appeared to be softening on the hard line call. 

He said: '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.'

Mr Gething told Sky News this morning that they were 'clarifying' the rules.

'We are looking to have that clarity for everyone so you don't see cards for example sealed up in one shop but available in another,' he said.

He added: 'If there really are exceptional circumstances and someone needs what would otherwise be a non-essential item, that that can happen as well.'

Mr Drakeford ducked out of an interview on the BBC's Andrew Marr show yesterday as the controversy raged.

But he told ITV Wales News last night that he understood people might need to buy non-essential products 'for entirely unexpected reasons which they couldn't have foreseen' during the 17-day period.

Around 60,000 people have signed a petition submitted to the Welsh Parliament calling for the ban to be immediately reversed.

Under the firebreak lockdown, which began at 6pm on Friday and will end on November 9, non-essential retail including clothes shops, furniture stores and car dealerships must close.

Supermarkets have been told they must only sell essential items to discourage people from spending more time than necessary in shops and be fair to retailers who have to shut.

Mr Drakeford said: 'I won't need – I don't think – to buy clothing over this two weeks and I think many, many people in Wales will be in that position too.

'For me, it won't be essential. But I recognise that there will be some people who for entirely unexpected reasons which they couldn't have foreseen will need to buy items.

'In those circumstances where those welfare reasons are at stake, we will make sure that our supermarkets understand they have the discretion to apply the rules differently.'

Mr Drakeford said ministers would meet with supermarkets today to discuss the ban. 

Whole areas of supermarkets have been closed off in line with the restrictions imposed by Welsh ministers before Saturday

Retailers have been ordered to sell only essential goods and so many supermarket aisles are roped off and products covered 

Items including children's clothes are covered up 'in line with government guidelines' at a supermarket in Cardiff today

Labour leader Mr Drakeford has been facing criticism over the ban on non-essential sales during the 'firebreak' lockdown

Furious father strips down to his PANTS before attempting to enter Tesco in Wales 

Amid widespread protests against the rules, Chris Noden went shopping in Newport, Gwent wearing just his boxer shorts and a face mask because 'clothes are non essential items' 

A dad attempted to shop at a Welsh supermarket wearing just his boxer shorts and a facemask in protest at Wales' ban on selling 'non-essential' items in supermarkets. 

Chris Noden, 38, was stopped by security staff as he tried to push his trolley into the Tesco store in Newport, Gwent.

Furious wife Dawn, 33, filmed him as he tried to access the store, demanding: 'Clothes are non essential - let him in.'

He added: 'They will want to do the right thing, I know, and our job is to be alongside them to make sure that is clear for everybody.'

He also refused to rule out the possibility of a second firebreak lockdown in Wales early next year. 

The current restrictions should give a pathway to Christmas 'without needing a period of this severity of restraint between now and then', he said.

'In the new year, who knows what position we will face,' Mr Drakeford said.

'If things were to be again as serious as they are in Wales today, nobody can rule out us needing to take further extraordinary measures.

'But if we do, it will be because it is the only way that we are able to deal with this deadly virus.'

The ban on selling non-essential items was announced in the Senedd on Thursday after Conservative MS Russell George said it was 'unfair' to force independent clothing and hardware retailers to shut while similar goods were on sale in major supermarkets.

Yesterday the Welsh Retail Consortium called for the restriction to be 'dropped quickly'.

It warned that the 'safe flow of customers' could be undermined due to changes in store layouts to cordon off areas.

Guidance previously published by the Welsh Government said certain sections of supermarkets must be 'cordoned off or emptied, and closed to the public' during the two-week lockdown.

These include areas selling electrical goods, telephones, clothes, toys and games, garden products and dedicated sections for homewares.

Paul Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, has asked for the Welsh Parliament to be recalled so members can discuss the ban.

He described the popularity of the petition as a 'clear sign' that people in Wales want the rule 'scrapped immediately'.

Under the firebreak rules, people can only leave their home for limited reasons, such as to buy food and medicine, provide care or take exercise, and must work from home where possible.

Leisure, hospitality and tourism businesses are closed, along with community centres, libraries and recycling centres, while places of worship are shut other than for funerals or wedding ceremonies.

Yesterday 1,104 people were reported to have tested positive for coronavirus in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 42,681.

Public Health Wales said five people with Covid-19 had died, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic rising to 1,777.

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