What are supermarkets currently allowed to sell?

Olivia Petter
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Getty Images/iStockphoto

As Britons continue adapting to life on lockdown, there has been confusion surrounding what is and is not allowed to be purchased in the supermarket.

On 23 March, Boris Johnson imposed a national lockdown, which means that people are only allowed out of their homes for a limited number of reasons, such as exercise, and shopping for medical supplies and food.

But in recent weeks, confusion has mounted over what is and is not allowed to be purchased on such excursions, especially as the lockdown measures begin to ease.

Here’s what you need to know about what supermarkets are allowed to sell during lockdown.

Why is there confusion surrounding what supermarkets can and can’t sell?

Cambridgeshire Police were criticised for appearing to police which items people were buying on their supermarket trips, urging them to avoid aisles selling “non-essential” items.

After conducting a patrol of a Tesco in Barhill, northwest of Cambridge, the police force tweeted: “Good to see everyone was abiding by social distancing measures and the non-essential aisles were empty”.

But it prompted a backlash as people criticised the police for trying to determine what was and was not an essential item for them.

The police force soon deleted the tweet and issued a statement saying an “over exuberant officer” was responsible.

Meanwhile, in Northamptonshire, the police said they could start searching shopping trolleys to ensure people were only buying “essential items”.

What can supermarkets actually sell?

The government has since confirmed that shops that have been permitted to stay open during lockdown can sell whatever they like, provided it is legal.

Earlier this month, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “We’ve set out a list of shops which could remain open, and if the shops are on that list then they’re free to sell whatever they have in stock, obviously provided it’s legal to do so.”

Can I still buy non-essential items?

If you are going to a shop that has been legally permitted to remain open in lockdown, the government guidelines state you can buy whatever you want in that shop at that time, whether it’s food or hygiene products.

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