Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford orders supermarkets to sell only ‘essential goods’ when 17-day ‘fire break’ lockdown starts in Wales today

  • Stores being told they are unable to sell items such as clothes to shoppers and to prioritise other products
  • Controversial Welsh ‘firebreak’ lockdown featuring harsher restrictions runs from Friday until November 9 
  • Many retailers being forced to close down as a result of Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford’s drastic action 
  • But Government unable to provide clarity on what is ‘essential’ nor how enforcement of the rules would look

Welsh supermarkets have been ordered to only sell ‘essential goods’ to customers during the country’s 17-day lockdown.

First Minister Mark Drakeford will tell stores they are unable to sell items such as clothes to shoppers, and to prioritise other products deemed to be more important.

It means a likely return to the scenes witnessed at the beginning of the pandemic when there were rows over the contents of people’s shopping trollies. 

Many retailers will be forced to shut during the ‘firebreak’ lockdown, when it begins on Friday at 6pm, but food shops, off-licences and pharmacies can stay open.

Despite there being just hours before it comes into effect, the Welsh Government was unable to provide clarity tonight on what is defined as ‘essential’ nor how enforcement of the rules would look. 

Police forces in the country have not released information on how it will work either, though a government spokesman insisted more details would be revealed on Friday morning.

The move has sparked anger among opposition figures, with Welsh Conservative Andrew RT Davies tweeting: ‘The power is going to their heads’. 

The lockdown is significantly more severe than England’s three-tier system, with Wales demanding people stay at home except for limited purposes such as exercise, and ordering the complete closure of pubs, restaurants, hotels and non-essential shops.

A ban on travel to Wales from hotspot areas in England has been in force this week, despite the Police Federation describing it as ‘unenforceable’.

By contrast, even in England’s strictest Tier Three areas, some social meetings are allowed outdoors and pubs can stay open providing they offer customers a ‘substantial meal’. 

As a result, revellers took to the streets of Cardiff city centre this evening to enjoy one last night out on the town before the new restrictions come into force.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also wants to take a harsher approach than the PM, with more levels of curbs to tackle the pandemic, though she played down claims from a top adviser that families should prepare to see loved ones over Zoom at Christmas due to the ongoing crisis. 

Mr Drakeford said it will be ‘made clear’ to supermarkets that only certain parts of their business will be allowed to open in order to sell essentials.

Retailers have been given mere hours to put together plans for the lockdown, which will run until November 9, as shopkeepers argue the rules do not make sense as customers will already be in their stores to buy the ‘essential’ items. 

In other Covid news:

  • Oxford coronavirus vaccine ‘works perfectly’ and builds strong immunity to virus, researchers find
  • Stay-at home orders do NOT stop the spread of coronavirus: Major study finds restrictions barely change the R rate because people don’t obey the draconian rules
  • Just 13% of people in England feel they ‘fully understand’ the current Covid-19 lockdown rules, study shows 
  • The UK announces another 21,242 positive coronavirus tests and the deaths of another 189 people 
A group of young people pose in Cardiff last night as they make the most of a night out before the Welsh lockdown
A group of young people pose in Cardiff last night as they make the most of a night out before the Welsh lockdown

Mr Drakeford made the announcement at a Senedd committee in response to a question from Conservative MS Russell George who said it was ‘unfair’ to force independent clothing and hardware retailers to close while similar goods were on sale in major supermarkets.

‘In the first set of restrictions people were reasonably understanding of the fact that supermarkets didn’t close all the things that they may have needed to,’ Mr Drakeford said.

‘I don’t think that people will be as understanding this time and we will be making it clear to supermarkets that they are only able to open those parts of their business that provide essential goods to people and that will not include some of the things that Russell George mentioned which other people are prevented from selling.

‘So, we will make sure there is a more level playing field in those next two weeks.’

From Friday all leisure and non-essential retail will be closed and this includes clothes shops, furniture shops and car dealerships. A complete list is yet to be published.

Shops allowed to remain open include supermarkets and other food retailers, pharmacies, banks and post offices.

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