For retailers in England, relief at escaping the draconian measures brought in by the Welsh government on non-essential retail has rapidly turned into despair at Westminster’s own botched handling of the issue.

Just as Wales’ 17-day firebreak lifted today, Twitter was alight with angry shoppers again, after stores across England barricaded off mezzanine levels selling clothing and other so-called “non-essential items” over the weekend.

As The Grocer revealed exclusively last week, the government told supermarkets they should shut down non-essential aisles if they were standalone units, including many F&F and George departments.

However, presumably to avoid the same sort of backlash that saw tens of thousands of shoppers sign a petition against a much further-reaching ban in Wales, the Westminster government went out of its way to distance itself from its own advice.

The PM’s official spokesman reportedly denied Downing Street had made any such proposals when the nationals picked up on The Grocer’s story.

So instead, the resultant huge backlash on social media has been aimed at the retailers themselves, especially Tesco, which has by far the most stores affected.

Top marks to one Tesco store in Birmingham, which blocked off the escalators to its mezzanine floor with cases of Corona beer, but sadly customers up and down the land failed to see the funny side.

Twitter has been inundated with complaints from customers furious at not being able to buy what they regarded as essential items, including school clothing for their kids, while other products such as fireworks and alcohol remained on sale.

You can’t really blame shoppers for not realising guidance had been belatedly sent out to retailers on Friday, a day after the lockdown began, making it quite clear that this is what the government expected supermarkets to do.

Because Boris Johnson didn’t mention any of it in his lockdown message, so desperate is he not to be painted as a Mark Drakeford-like merchant of doom.

It’s hard to take many of social media responses seriously, given they are full of the sort of bile customers often spill out against supermarkets on Twitter, despite continuing to shop there.

But one has to feel sorry for Tesco cast as the big villain in all this, while Sainsbury’s, albeit with a smaller number of stores with mezzanine levels, has quietly carried on selling its Tu range in them, arguing that they include essential items.

Asda, whilst closing a small number of standalone George stores and 37 Asda Living stores, also decided to keep the majority of its George clothing sections open, even though many of those have separate entrances.

So, of course, have other so called non-essential retailers, such as Wilko, The RangeCarpetright and Ryman, with little sign that the government will send in the police or environmental health officers, as its guidance promised to those flouting the rules.

Whether such stores should be shut is a matter of fierce debate, with very little evidence linking retail with the Covid-19 spread. Those demanding such stores shut their doors are quick to forget the huge impact on staff and the economy, and are also the first to bemoan the death of the high street.

But the deliberate ambiguity (or downright incompetence) of the government’s approach means it is yet again the ordinary staff on the shop floor who have been left to deal with angry shoppers.

With Tesco among those stores announcing new Covid security measures this week, the bungled messaging of the non-essential items ban is only going to make it more challenging for staff to get customers to comply.

It was the exactly same with the debacle over delivery slots for people who were shielding, the row over face masks and the confusion over when vulnerable workers should return to retail jobs.

Accountability and clarity sadly seem to be viewed by this government as non-essential items.