Supermarkets in Wales given discretion over ban on selling non-essential items


Supermarkets will have discretion over the Welsh government’s ban on selling non-essential items during the firebreak lockdown, the first minister has said.

Mark Drakeford said people may need to buy such products “for entirely unexpected reasons which they couldn’t have foreseen” during the 17-day period. The restriction has led to aisles being cordoned off and plastic sheeting placed over items including children’s clothes, bedding and kettles.

Around 60,000 people have signed a petition to the Welsh parliament calling for the ban to be reversed immediately.

Under the firebreak lockdown, which began at 6pm on Friday and will run until 9 November, non-essential retail outlets including clothes shops, furniture stores and car dealerships must close. Supermarkets have been told they must only sell essential items to discourage people from spending more time than necessary in shops and to be fair to retailers who have to shut.

Drakeford told ITV Wales News: “I won’t need, I don’t think, to buy clothing over this two weeks and I think many, many people in Wales will be in that position too.


“For me it won’t be essential, but I recognise that there will be some people who for entirely unexpected reasons which they couldn’t have foreseen will need to buy items.

“In those circumstances where those welfare reasons are at stake, we will make sure that our supermarkets understand they have the discretion to apply the rules differently.”

He said ministers would meet supermarket representatives on Monday to discuss the ban. “They will want to do the right thing, I know, and our job is to be alongside them to make sure that is clear for everybody,” he said.

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He did not rule out the possibility of a second firebreak lockdown in Wales early next year. The current restrictions should provide a pathway to Christmas “without needing a period of this severity of restraint between now and then”, he said.

“In the new year, who knows what position we will face. If things were to be again as serious as they are in Wales today, nobody can rule out us needing to take further extraordinary measures.

“But if we do, it will be because it is the only way that we are able to deal with this deadly virus.”

The ban on selling non-essential items was announced in the Welsh parliament on Thursday after the Conservative member Russell George said it was unfair to force independent clothing and hardware retailers to shut while similar goods were on sale in major supermarkets.

The Welsh Retail Consortium called on Sunday for the restriction to be “dropped quickly”. It said the “safe flow of customers” could be undermined because of changes in store layouts to cordon off areas.

The Welsh government’s initial guidance said certain sections of supermarkets must be “cordoned off or emptied, and closed to the public” during the two-week lockdown.

These include areas selling electrical goods, telephones, clothes, toys and games, garden products and dedicated sections for homeware.

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Paul Davies, has asked for parliament to be recalled so members can discuss the ban. He said the popularity of the petition was a clear sign that people in Wales wanted the rule scrapped immediately.

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Under the firebreak rules, people can only leave their home for limited reasons, such as to buy food and medicine, provide care or take exercise, and they must work from home where possible.

Leisure, hospitality and tourism businesses are closed, along with community centres, libraries and recycling centres. Places of worship are shut other than for funerals and wedding ceremonies.

On Sunday, 1,104 people were reported to have tested positive for coronavirus in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 42,681. Public Health Wales said five people with Covid-19 had died, bringing the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic to 1,777.



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