Bare necessities in a pandemic


Sir, – I wonder can things get any more absurd during these times we live in. The Minister of State for Employment Affairs and Retail Businesses Damien English, while being interviewed by Miriam O’Callaghan on Prime Time on Thursday, clearly stated the “Clothes are not essential” retail items to be purchased for children or anybody for that matter during a pandemic lockdown!

I wonder would the Minister be so good as to clarify if we should all to go naked during a Covid pandemic winter and get flu as well which would result in another epidemic health crisis?

Clothes are always essential and I think if the Minister arrived naked to Leinster House wishing to gain access he might be made aware very quickly how very essential clothes are without a glimmer of ambiguity! – Yours, etc,


Asst Prof of Nursing, School

of Nursing & Midwifery,

Trinity College, Dublin 2.

Sir, – The harsh reality as evidenced by the dramatic increase in Covid-19 cases is that the public cannot follow the simple rules of mask-wearing and social-distancing.

If they could we wouldn’t have the spread of the virus.

So the State has had to step in to limit opportunities for social interaction. The reasoning behind supermarkets not selling clothes, etc, is twofold: one, to save some sales for the hard-hit small retailers that had to close but also to limit the time people spend in the supermarket which reduces queuing times and risk of catching the virus.

The idea that people don’t have enough clothes to carry over the next six weeks is ludicrous. I rarely clothes shop but probably have 10 years’ worth in my wardrobe. I’m sure it’s the same in most houses. The issue isn’t that you can buy a bottle of wine but not a pair of socks, it’s to limit our interactions. There’d be rioting if alcohol was banned! – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.

Sir, – The debate over the sale of so-called non-essential items by the supermarket multiples during these current restrictions misses the point. The existential threat to independent local retailers is a changing consumer habit, in the form of online shopping: a threat which pre-dates Covid-19, but which is certainly accelerated by it.

Rather than engaging in protectionist window dressing, perhaps the Government’s focus should be on providing the training and capital to local retailers to develop their own online presence, thus enabling them to operate whatever level of restrictions is imposed, and delivering decent broadband to all of its citizens. – Yours, etc,


Co Mayo.

Sir, – Do our Ministers read the Government’s regulations or just make it up as they go along?

The Covid-19 statutory instruments do appear to not specifically prohibit selling any products in an “essential retail outlet”.

Why have Ministers called out retail outlets that fall into the definition of essential retail outlets and called their selling of some products “not lawful” without specifying how the regulations prohibit their sale?

What specific laws or regulations are being broken? We need Government to stop making it up as they go along. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 18.

Sir, – What is and is not essential, in travel or purchasing, is in the eye and wallet of the customer. The reduction ad absurdum that was junior minister with responsibility for the retail sector Damien English’s statement, on Prime Time on Thursday, that clothes are not essential should in any rational world cause both uncontolled laughter and a strategic rethink (, October 30th).

If, as stated, the aim is to stop large congregations then that is what should be done. Let the gardaí, or perhaps more appropriately public health inspectors who are trained in public health issues, ensure that shops are taking steps to enforce physical distancing, and let people buy whatever they want.

All that this present approach does is to show the foolishness of blanket blunt restrictions. – Yours, etc,


Co Kildare.

Sir, –   I cannot visit my wife in hospital because of Covid-19 restrictions — a sensible rule. However, if she takes up smoking it seems that she can stand directly outside the front door of the hospital and mix with others. Go figure . . . Yours, etc,


Balbriggan, Co Dublin.

Sir, – While banning socks and stockings in order to prevent people straying into company is medically understandable, the current cold season might lead people to become rebellious and demand warm feet. But wait, all they need to do is purchase cigarettes freely and having smoked said items in a haze of anxiety, the citizen will manage to have compromised his/her circulation to such an extent that their feet feel nothing! – Yours, etc,


Dublin 24.

Sir, – I found myself writing to the Department of the Taoiseach this week: my subject-line was “Pyjamas and knickers are essential items”. The local shopping centre had blocked off its haberdashery section and I could not get a pair of pyjamas for my daughter. This is achieved using rolls of see-through plastic and was continued in the arts section, on mid-term when children are home.

Our current Government, composed, it seems, of three rotating male taoisigh, is demonstrating not alone a profound disconnect with public opinion on the notion of what constitutes an essential item, but profound idiocy too, which in my opinion is gendered.

I long for the day when we have leaders who understand that their idiotic egotistical concerns have implications in our lives and that a previous government fell on the issue of VAT on children’s shoes. – Yours, etc,


Walkinstown, Dublin 12.