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Downing Street says shops can still sell Easter eggs after police crackdown

No10 instructed shops to sell what they like following a police crackdown

2 min read

Downing Street says shops can sell what they like after police urged some retailers to restrict sales of Easter eggs during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Prime Minister's official spokesperson said officers should use "discretion" when applying new emergency powers, after some forces were accused of taking an "overzealous" approach to enforcement.

It comes after reports certain retailers were urged by police and local councils to restrict the range of products they sold - including Easter eggs - because they were deemed "non-essential" items.

The Cabinet Office has already issued guidance on which shops are allowed to remain open during the lockdown period, including supermarkets, off licences and newsagents, but have not imposed restrictions on the products they are allowed to sell.

But retail trade body, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), said "overzealous enforcement and a misreading of the rules" had led to "confusion" over the advice.

"There is no government definition of which products can be sold within those stores," said ACS chief executive James Lowman.

"In the cases where officers have challenged retailers and shoppers in this way, it's brought confusion, distracted retailers in the busiest weeks of their lives and increased the interactions between people at a time when the government is trying to minimise them."

Pressed for further clarity on the guidance, the Downing Street spokesperson said: "We have set out which shops can remain open, if a shop is allowed to stay open then it will of course sell whatever items it has in stock."

They added: "The regulation signed by the Health Secretary last week set out what the government's clear instruction to the public is and that is what we have asked the police to enforce.

"Having asked the police to do that job as is usual we would expect them to exercise their own discretion over how they use their powers."

The comments come as Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said her approach was to "help educate and encourage" the public to following the social distancing rules, claiming fines and dispersion powers would only be used as a last resort.

She told LBC: "We are all getting used to the new restrictions and I’ve been very clear that in the first instance I want my officers to be engaging with people, talking to people, encouraging them to comply.

"Explaining, of course, if they don’t understand – already we have had examples of people who simply hadn’t quite heard all the messages – and, only as a very last resort with the current restrictions, using firm direction or even enforcement."

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