Gardaí will take action against retailers selling facemasks or other PPE as an excuse to keep their businesses open during the Level 5 lockdown, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.
There has been mounting frustration in recent days that some retailers, such as clothes or shoe shops, have begun stocking PPE or other essential items so they will not have to close down.
There has also been confusion about the power of the Garda to take action against such businesses. The Sunday Times newspaper reported that the Government has received legal advice that such premises cannot be shut down under the current Covid-19 legislation.
Speaking on the Week in Politics on RTÉ Radio One on Sunday afternoon, Mr Varadkar said selling non-essential items alongside essential goods is “not lawful”.
He said retailers need to “abide by the regulations and also need to abide by the spirit of the regulations. So if you’re a mixed retailer and there’s a lot of mixed retailers out there, you should separate your stock and only sell the items that are essential.
“So for example if you are a supermarket or a big store that has groceries or clothes you should separate off the clothes and not sell them. Workwear is ok but general clothing is not.”
He said the Government has been in contact with gardaí on the issue and that the regulations “will be enforced”.
“If you’re selling essential products that’s one thing, if you’re trying to use essential products as a means of opening your store that’s not ok, that’s not lawful and we will bring an enforcement action.
“Think of all the small shops and retail outlets that have had to close. It would be unfair for those allowed to stay open to somehow take advantage and it won’t be allowed,” Mr Varadkar said.
The Garda has yet to respond to queries on the extent of its powers in this area. However on Sunday afternoon it tweeted it is checking the compliance of retail outlets and that regulations “are being enforced.”
It said enforcement action will only be used as a last resort.