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Coronavirus: Wales' ban on 'non-essential items' in supermarkets to be reviewed after backlash

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Products line the shelves of a supermarket.
Products line the shelves of a supermarket.   -   Copyright  Image by Squirrel_photos from Pixabay
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A ban on selling on supermarkets in Wales selling items deemed "non-essential" during the country's "firebreak" lockdown will be reviewed after shoppers took to social media to express their frustrations.

Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford announced on Saturday that the government would be making sure that "common sense is applied" in supermarkets across the country.

In a post on Twitter, he said: "We’ll be reviewing how the weekend has gone with the supermarkets and making sure that common sense is applied. Supermarkets can sell anything that can be sold in any other type of shop that isn't required to close. In the meantime, please only leave home if you need to".

Pressure mounted on the Welsh government on Saturday after many people called into question the choice of products that had been earmarked as not crucial, which reportedly included clothes, shoes, toys and bedding.

A petition to the Senedd - the devolved Welsh parliament - had attracted nearly 44,000 signatures by Sunday morning.

Petitions that get over 5,000 people to support them are then debated in parliament.

Pictures surfaced on online social platforms showing items like books covered over with plastic sheets and whole sections of supermarkets taped off.

One social media user expressed anger over the fact that baby clothes were deemed non-essential in one store, while alcoholic beverages including vodka and beer were available on the shelves of the same supermarket.

The Welsh government said on Twitter on Saturday that the measures it had introduced were "not for the sake of being difficult".

"Supermarkets can keep selling items you can find in other essential shops – such as stationery/greeting cards," it added.

"The purpose of selling essential items only during firebreak is to discourage spending more time than necessary in shops and to be fair to retailers who have to close."

Some on social media backed the argument that authorities had introduced the rule to protect smaller businesses.

"If clothes shops on high street are told they must close it's unfair on their business if Tesco can open selling the same thing. The small shops are losing out whilst Tesco has published increased sales and profits throughout the pandemic," a Twitter user wrote.

"So, the supermarkets have to stay open because they sell food. Why should they be able to sell items other shops can’t because it’s a pandemic?" another said.

Wales entered a 17-day coronavirus "firebreak" lockdown on Friday evening, with pubs, restaurants and nonessential shops will shut, along with libraries and community and recycling centres.

The government also put a stop to people from different households meeting up whether inside or outside.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales on Sunday, Welsh Deputy Economy and Transport Minister Lee Waters said that it was likely Wales would see another "firebreak" in the future to prevent a further resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

In the interview, he said: "This is not the last lockdown we are likely to see. The projections we published in a worst-case scenario show it's likely we are going to need another firebreak in January or February."

It came as many European countries reimposed measures to combat rising coronavirus cases.

Wales saw 182 reported cases of the virus per 100,000 people in the last week.