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Downing Street tells police to back off after force claims it is monitoring ‘non-essential aisles’ in supermarkets

Shops still open have been told they can sell whatever they have in stock (PA)

2 min read

Downing Street has said shops are free to sell whatever they have in stock after a police force claimed it was monitoring the “non-essential aisles” in supermarkets.

It has now apologised after facing a backlash and claimed it is not checking what people are buying during the coronavirus lockdown.

But that came after the Prime Minister's official spokesman had rejected the measures set out in a tweet by Cambridgeshire Police.

"We set out a list of shops which could remain open and if the shops are on that list then they are free to sell whatever they have in stock,” he said.

"Obviously provided it's legal to do so.”

On Friday morning the force's Cambridge team posted on social media: "Officers visited Tesco Barhill this morning as part of their patrols around supermarkets and green spaces this weekend.

"Good to see everyone was abiding by social distancing measures and the non-essential aisles were empty.”

In a follow-up on message it said the initial post, which has since been deleted, was made by an "over exuberant officer who has been spoken to since this tweet was published”.

"For clarification, the force position, in line with national guidance, is that we are not monitoring what people are buying from supermarkets," it added.

It comes just a day after the chief constable of another force was criticised for suggesting officers could start searching people’s shopping trolleys for “legitimate” shopping during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Home Secretary Priti Patel said police checking through what people were buying was "not appropriate" after the comments by Northamptonshire Police’s Nick Adderley.

He has since backtracked on his comments, describing his language as "clumsy".

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