Coronavirus: New rules over ‘essential’ items in Welsh shops – but are they more confusing?

Fresh guidance has been given about what “essential items” people can buy from supermarkets in Wales.

It comes after days of anger over which items count.

But the Welsh government’s statement was in danger of sparking further confusion by saying that a “sensible system should be introduced whereby customers can ask to buy non-essential items by exception under the regulations”.

It did not set out further details about who would decide on any exception and how.

When contacted and asked to provide clarification, a spokesman for the Welsh government said they would not be adding to the statement.

The list was updated on Tuesday evening, following talks with companies about the policy that came into force at the end of last week to coincide with the 17-day “firebreak” to stem coronavirus cases.

From now on, ministers say the following essential products can be sold:

  • Food and drink
  • Products ancillary to the sale of food and drink, primarily disposable items used for the preparation and storage of food (such as 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
  • Pet food and other pet supplies
  • Products for the maintenance of bicycles and cars

The new list had to be issued after a woman said yesterday she could not get hold of sanitary products in a Tesco. The supermarket later apologised.

And another person was seen pulling off plastic sheeting covering up some shelves, used to stop customers buying some products. A man was later charged by police.

The Welsh government said in their statement: “Only selling essential items during [the] firebreak is to discourage spending more time than necessary in shops. It should not stop you accessing items that you need.”

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