Tesco not Covid safe, Andy Burnham tells House of Lords

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has accused Tesco of failing to be “Covid-safe” over the use of masks, accusing the supermarket giant of having failed to take a “responsible attitude”.

It comes as a consortium of retailers have asked the Welsh Government to relax its ban on selling non-essential items as part of the ‘fire break’ lockdown in Wales.

Mr Burnham told the Lords economic affairs committee that local leaders have called for the Government to hand over powers to take targeted enforcement action against firms that fail to protect staff and customers.

“We asked for summary closure powers of all premises that were not deemed to be Covid-safe,” Mr Burnham said.

“I’m not just talking about pubs and restaurants. There are large supermarkets in Greater Manchester who in my view have not properly implemented the requirements around face coverings. And I’ll name one chain: Tesco.

“I don’t believe they’ve taken a responsible attitude to this issue, they’ve said it’s not for them to enforce. Well I do think it is for those organisations to enforce.

“We have asked for targeted summary closure powers to be able to temporarily close venues which we do not believe are adhering properly to the protocols.

“We think that would be a better approach than blanket restrictions that may or may not have the impact that the Government wants on the virus.”

Groups representing supermarkets made a series of recommendations to Welsh ministers today following confusion over what can and cannot be sold during the 17-day firebreak period.

A joint statement by CBI Wales, the Welsh Retail Consortium, and the Association of Convenience Stores, said it hoped the Welsh Government would now agree to its proposals in order to “resolve the confusion”.

The statement said: “We recommend the individual customer is trusted to make their own decision as to whether a product is non-essential or not, taking into account the notices displayed throughout the store and their immediate needs.

“If the customer goes ahead with the purchase of the item the final liability ought to rest with the customer.”

It added: “These recommendations would mean non-essential items are not removed from shelves, or cordoned off in stores, but large notices are placed in front of the products and in communal spaces informing customers of the Welsh Government’s regulations and the Welsh public are trusted to make the right decision.

“We look forward to engaging with Welsh Government again this morning and we hope consensus can be reached.”

The statement added that its proposals would “resolve the confusion over non-essential items”, as well as help the Welsh public “refocus all their energies on respecting the firebreak”.

The meeting comes a day after health minister Vaughan Gething said it would be made clear that supermarkets could use their own discretion to sell non-essential items to individuals “who are in genuine need”.

He said he was “very saddened” to hear of an exchange involving Tesco on Twitter in which it was wrongly suggested sanitary products were “non-essential” and so could not be sold due to the new measures in place in Wales.

Tesco not Covid safe, Andy Burnham tells House of Lords
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The Welsh Government has said the rules are both about limiting transmissions of coronavirus as well as being fair to non-essential retailers who have had to close during the firebreak.

Other proposals made to ministers on Tuesday include supermarkets prominently displaying approved signage in front of non-essential items, while using in-store announcements and social media messaging to advise customers to put off non-essential purchases.

Retailers would also remove special in-store promotional displays of non-essential items in order to minimise browsing time and “avoid triggering a non-essential purchase”.

The Welsh Government is expected to revise its guidance to retailers later on Tuesday.

The new restrictions in Wales, which began at 6pm on 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 product 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”.

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