It comes after Tesco apologised for wrongly telling a woman she could not buy sanitary products as they were “non-essential” and so could not be sold under the new COVID-19 measures in place in Wales. The confusion has sparked a backlash across the country and in London where UK ministers attacked the Welsh government over the chaos.
Foreign Office minister and former Tory co-chairman James Cleverly tweeted: “If you want to see how a Labour government would be dealing with the current COVID-19 situation just look at how they’re doing in Wales.”
Welsh Conservative health spokesman Andrew Davies said the confusion was the result of a “barmy ban” by the Welsh Labour Government which should be stopped.
Their views were echoed by many on social media.
Adrian Sleeman said: “This is Starmer using Wales as a proxy war. He was banging on about a two-week circuit-break lockdown in England but he is pretty much impotent there.
“Guess what? Wales is Labour-run – no surprise our puppet leader then opts for the Starmer plan.”
Edward Leaving said: “I live in Wales and like the Labour Party in England, they are completely out of touch with the general public, they are an embarrassment.”
Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething insisted ministers would ensure retailers understand what can and cannot be sold during the controversial 17-day firebreak but also discuss how shoppers with “exceptional circumstances” can purchase non-essential items.
Replying to a customer who complained she had been told she could not buy sanitary pads at a store in the St Mellons area of Cardiff, Tesco said: “We have been told by the Welsh Government not to sell these items for the duration of the firebreak lockdown.”
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The supermarket later said the tweet was sent “by mistake” and said the relevant aisles had been closed off after a break-in at the store.
Mr Gething said the regulations and guidance would be reviewed to make sure they were being applied “fairly and consistently”.
He told the Welsh Government’s coronavirus press briefing: “If there are anomalies, we will look at whether the guidance needs to be revised or strengthened, to make it clear that supermarkets have some discretion to sell to people who are in genuine need.”
Mr Gething said he recognised the ban on selling non-essential items was “difficult” and “hard for people to accept”.
And he admitted the Welsh Government would “continue to learn lessons about how we do our job effectively in communicating with stakeholders, the public, but not losing sight of the fact that this is a public health emergency”.
He said discussions with supermarkets would focus on how shoppers with “exceptional circumstances” can purchase non-essential items during the firebreak lockdown and suggested shoppers could “discreetly” make their needs known to staff.
Following Tesco’s original tweet, the Welsh Government tweeted: “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.”
The new restrictions in Wales, which began at 6pm last Friday and will end on November 9, mean non-essential retail including clothes shops, furniture stores and car dealerships must close.
Shops selling multiple types of products can stay open but can only sell essential items – which according to the Welsh Government’s website also includes those “which would normally be sold in pharmacies and chemists”.