If there’s one thing COVID-19 has exposed in our society, it’s that some people just have no idea what it’s like to be broke and struggling to get your pay through the week.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was answering questions in the daily presser today (which saw 233 new cases and 174 places exposure sites added to alert lists) when a journo asked why places like Bunnings or The Reject Shop are still open.

“Obviously the lockdown rules we have in NSW are some of the harshest our nation has seen,” Gladys said.

“We need people to remember every time they leave the house that they could have the virus or someone they come into contact with could have the virus.”

“Why is The Reject Shop open?” a journo interrupted.

Berejiklian responded that non-essential businesses should be closed when the reporter interjected again.

“Why is Bunnings open, it is not open in Queensland?” the reporter asked. Gladys didn’t answer her.

For the record, Bunnings actually is open in Queensland despite the latest outbreak, because it’s considered an essential service for people who may need emergency repairs.

The Bunnings website actually has a statement explaining why it has been classified as an essential service.

“Our stores located in the local government areas of Greater Sydney, the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour are classified as critical and remain open to ensure customers and tradespeople have access to the products they need to complete emergency repairs and maintenance around homes or to supply essential infrastructure and services, in line with government guidance,” the website says.

Some people can’t afford to call in a tradie when things at home fall apart (and trust me, if you’re renting in Sydney, this happens way more than you’d think).

The same goes for The Reject Shop, which stocks basic groceries like spices, pasta, canned goods, two minute noodles, toiletries, and other random but essential stuff – and usually at half the price of other supermarkets, too.

For that reason, The Reject Shop is close to the heart of anyone that’s been broke and struggling. Anyone who thinks it isn’t an essential supermarket can tell that to the $30 in my bank account.

People on Twitter are slamming the idea that discount stores which sell essential good should be closed, saying this approach is classist and privileged. And they’re not wrong.

The thing about this Reject Shop discourse is that it exposes something kind of ugly in the way we discuss this pandemic: we are constantly trying to punish poor people for existing, for needing extra or specific services, for not being able to afford to shop at certain places, or for having to travel to work.

Instead of discussing why specific essential stores are open, we should be discussing why vaccines were rolled out so late, or why only certain people have access to them, or how the government has failed so miserably in gaining the trust and confidence of the communities they need to get vaccinated. Not whether the fucking Reject Shop should be open.