RETAILERS around the county are receiving visits from Gardaí to ensure compliance with Level 5 restrictions, amid controversy over which shops and products are deemed to be essential. Clare Gardaí have confirmed receiving a number of complaints about apparent breaches of the rules.
Despite the government outlining 16 different categories of retail that can continue under the highest level of Covid-19 restrictions, confusion has arisen. Several members of the public have contacted The Champion to say that certain retail outlets appear to be open when they shouldn’t be. Similarly, many retailers who are deemed to be non-essential, have taken issue with the sale of clothing by supermarkets. Retail representative groups say members are angry and confused.
“We’ve been asking the government to make all retail essential at this time of the year,” said CEO of Ennis-based Retail Excellence, Duncan Graham. “There was a palpable sense of shock when we moved to Level 5. People are very anxious, they’re very worried, they’re very upset. We must have taken hundreds of calls … seeking, in the first instance, clarification of what was in the guidelines. Then, secondly, we’ve seen this move to a sense of anger among smaller retailers who’ve been doing the right thing. They’ve been closing their businesses down, they’ve been moving online, but then they’ve seen that some of the larger retailers down the road are still selling what are classed as non-essential products.”
CEO of Ennis Chamber of Commerce, Margaret O’Brien said that the apparent flouting of regulations by some retailers, under the guise of selling essential items, is a source of concern. “A number of retailers have raised this issue,” she said. “Most are keeping their heads down and doing their best to operate, in so far as they can, with click and collect, online shopping and deliveries and sticking within the guidelines. As regards those who are not, there is a sense that that isn’t fair, but members know they just can’t afford to be distracted by this issue. It would wreck their heads otherwise.”
Superintendent John Galvin said, “We have had several complaints nationally and locally that trading is going on in items that are not considered essential. We have been visiting for the purpose of giving advice and encouraging retailers to comply. We are telling people what the regulations are and what their responsibilities are. We’re going in to provide advice and encouragement. Most are complying.”
Mr Graham said retailers are becoming increasingly desperate. “There are going to be 60,000 retail workers that are likely to be going onto the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP),” he said. “That is in addition to the 30,000 that have already moved onto the PUP since the last lockdown.”