Which items are 'essential' during a supermarket shop?

Ellen Manning
·3-min read
Shopping cart in supermarket. Part of shopping trolley in supermarket aisle. Blurred shelves in grocery store and trolley. Copy space for text or design.
The Welsh government has been urged to define what is 'essential' shopping after saying supermarkets can't sell things like clothing. (Getty)

The Welsh government is being urged to define what is and isn’t ‘essential’ in a supermarket shop after its First Minister said supermarkets could only sell essential items and nothing else during the firebreak lockdown.

The move, which has been described as an effort to ensure a “level playing field” for the retailers who are forced to close their doors for 17 days from Friday, has sparked a backlash from critics.

Mark Drakeford has suggested that supermarkets won’t be able sell items like clothing and hardware during the lockdown period, sparking calls for clear definitions on what is and isn’t essential when it comes to supermarket shopping.

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Andrew RT Davies, the Conservative shadow health minister, posted several tweets questioning how a decision would be made on what was essential.

In one, he wrote: “Is a flagon of Strongbow deemed essential? What about some much-needed underpants if you’re caught short?

“I do hope there is some published guidance on what the Labour commissars deem as essential.”

Watch: 'Alcohol is essential but hairdryers aren't' - health minister of Wales defends shop ban on non-essential goods

He also shared an exchange between Sky News presenter Kay Burley and Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething in which they argued over whether a hairdryer would be deemed essential or not.

Calling for urgent clarity on the issue just hours before the lockdown was due to come into force, Darren Millar, shadow minister for Covid recovery, said: “With just hours to go until the Wales-wide lockdown begins, confusion is rife the length and breadth of Wales.

“Supermarkets, convenience stores and other shops have no idea which goods the Welsh Labour-led Government regards as non-essential so that they can restrict them from sale.”

He added: “Making last-minute diktats is irresponsible; ministers must issue guidance immediately so that businesses and the public know where they stand.”

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Many Twitter users questioned why alcohol could be purchased, with some also asking why cigarettes were considered essential.

One asked whether pens could be bought, saying they are essential for people with dementia or who are deaf and use them for communication.

Another asked whether children’s clothes and baby clothes would be essential, saying: “If you are going to make arbitrary draconian rules you should be clear.”

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