Wales reviews ban on shops selling non-essential goods

Wales reviews ‘trolley police’ ban on shops selling non-essential goods amid huge backlash: First Minister Mark Drakeford admits they need to use ‘common sense’ after revolt at draconian curbs

  • Wales has banned shops from selling ‘non-essential goods’ during ‘firebreak’ lockdown from 6pm Friday
  • Supermarket and other retailers were forced to block off aisles and make dozens of products unavailable
  • First Minister Mark Drakeford revealed last night that the policy will be reviewed amid a massive backlash 
  • Products which are also off-limits include toasted sandwich makers, microwaves and scented candles 

Wales is today reviewing its ‘trolley police’ ban on shops selling non-essential goods during the ‘firebreak’ lockdown after a massive backlash.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said he recognised that people were ‘fed up’ as he hinted at a rethink on the draconian move, saying ‘common sense’ was needed.

Welsh ministers have been embroiled in damaging rows about the restrictions for days, with bewilderment that alcohol is seen as ‘essential’ but school uniform, vacuum cleaners and hairdryers are not.

Supermarkets have actively taped off shelves of ordinary goods, blocking off entire aisles or covering them in plastic. 

Critics have branded the move ‘madness’ and said the only person to benefit will be Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, as shoppers will just buy things online instead. 

First Minister Mark Drakeford said he recognised that people were ‘fed up’ as he hinted at a rethink on the draconian move, saying ‘common sense’ was needed

Labour leader Mr Drakeford has been facing criticism over the ban on non-essential sales during the ‘firebreak’ lockdown, and tweeted last night admitting people were ‘fed up’

Items such as carbon monoxide detectors and extension leads had been covered up ‘in line with government guidelines’ at a Tesco store in Cardiff yesterday

Non-essential or essential? What we know about what goods are banned in Wales’ lockdown firebreak 

First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced that non-essential items should not be sold during the country’s firebreak lockdown.

So far the Welsh government has not published a public list of what these goods include.

The supermarkets have also not responded on whether they have been given specific instructions on what they cannot sell.

But it appears these items cannot be sold during the 17 days of restrictions:

  • Hairdryers
  • Stationary 
  • Kettles
  • Other kitchen goods such as microwaves and toasted sandwich makers 
  • Phone chargers
  • Duvets
  • Sheets 
  • Electrical products
  • Scented candles
  • Clothes
  • Children’s toys
  • Towels and cushions
  • Wrapping paper 

The Welsh Government was also unable to provide clarity over what goods counted as ‘essential’, with one minister instead saying that he hoped retailers would have a ‘grown-up understanding’. 

Yesterday more than 34,000 people signed a petition calling on the Welsh Government to reverse the ban, which it described as ‘disproportionate and cruel’.

And last night Mr Drakeford tweeted: ‘Thank you for all your efforts over the last 24 hours to stay at home. We know people are fed up.

‘It’s not easy, but we all have a responsibility to stop the virus spreading.

‘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.’

His tweet followed a statement from the Welsh Government earlier on Saturday, which insisted the ban was ‘not for the sake of being difficult’.

A spokesman confirmed that items found in other essential shops – such as stationery and greetings cards – could still be sold in supermarkets during the lockdown.

Guidance previously published by the Welsh Government said certain sections of supermarkets must be ‘cordoned off or emptied, and closed to the public’ during the two-week period.

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

Supplies for the ‘essential upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household’ – such as batteries, lightbulbs and rubber gloves – can be sold during the lockdown.

Images posted on social media showed aisles selling products such as children’s clothes, greetings cards and book blocked off, with plastic sheeting placed over items to prevent shoppers from accessing them.

The petition calling for the ban to be reversed immediately states: ‘We do not agree that this is a prudent or rational measure, and will create more harm than good.

‘We do not agree for example that parents should be barred from buying clothes for their children during lockdown while out shopping.’

Paul Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said he had written to the presiding officer of the Welsh Parliament calling for members to be recalled to discuss the ban.

He described the popularity of the petition as a ‘clear sign’ that people in Wales want the rule ‘scrapped immediately’.

One video posted on social media appeared to show a man ripping down plastic sheeting that was covering clothing aisles in a supermarket.

Vacuum cleaners: The products are among the items which supermarkets have deemed ‘non-essential’ after the Welsh Government’s imposition of a 17-day lockdown. Retailers have been ordered to sell only essential goods and so many supermarket aisles were roped off and products covered up

Bedding: Also apparently considered a luxury item as duvets and sheets were seen taped off at a Tesco store in Pontypool

Children’s toys: Including a mock ride-on lawn mower, were also taped off after being deemed ‘non-essential’ by staff at this Tesco store in Cardiff

This week police revealed extraordinary plans to patrol the Anglo-Welsh border to stop families from crossing over for a half-term holiday as Wales was plunged into a two-week ‘firebreak’ lockdown.

Officers said they would try to stop caravans sneaking into England from Wales and deter Welsh motorists defying Mr Drakeford’s ‘power-mad’ orders from making ‘non-essential’ journeys.

Gloucestershire Police announced an operation covering routes from Wales into the Forest of Dean where officers would stop motorists travelling into England to find out what they were doing.

Drivers would be encouraged to turn around and head back to Wales if officers ‘are not satisfied with their explanation’, a spokesman said. If they refuse, police will tell forces in Wales so they can issue fines.

But drivers were later seen crossing the border on the A494 at Queensferry and on the A5445 between Chester and Wrexham in a breach of the new restrictions.

Children’s toys: Toys which parents cannot buy for their children also include a build-your-own toy digger and a ‘Little People’ ride-on toy car

Clothes: Something many parents would put near the top of a priority list for their kids, were also taped off after being deemed non-essential at this Asda store in Cardiff

Mr Drakeford has threatened to use number plate recognition cameras to fine English drivers crossing into his country.

His call was echoed by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who threatened to roll-out a similar travel ban across Scotland to stop people travelling from virus hotspots in England.

But the Police Federation of England and Wales has revealed the ban is ‘unenforceable’, adding policing which is ‘already over-stretched due to the pandemic’ would be complicated by the measure. 

Wales was plunged into a draconian ‘firebreak’ lockdown at 6pm yesterday and it is expected to wreck the Welsh economy.

Under the measures, which will last 17 days, people will be asked to stay at home and to leave only for a limited number of reasons, including exercise, buying essential supplies, or to seek or provide care. 

MPs have hit out at the extreme restrictions, with MP for Tonbridge and Malling, Tom Tugendhat, blasting the Welsh Government for ‘destroying’ jobs on the high street.

He took to social media and wrote: ‘This is how you destroy jobs on the high street and push them online. What shops can’t sell, Amazon will deliver.’ 

Meanwhile, supermarket staff covered up kettles and phone chargers on shelves as Mr Drakeford banned the sale of ‘non-essential’ items.   

Tesco and Lidl workers became Wales’ first ‘trolley police’ as they were seen hiding shelves of ‘non-essential’ products behind plastic sheets to stop customers buying them ahead of the start of the restrictions, which came in earlier yesterday.

Plastic barriers and stacks of drinks crates were also set up to block off certain aisles while other items were taped off by staff as part of efforts to follow the draconian new rules. 

At other major supermarkets, Sainsbury’s said staff have been working ‘around the clock’ to put changes in place, while Waitrose said it was reviewing government guidance and Asda claimed it had been given ‘very little time’ to implement the new rules.

Four members of staff at a Tesco store in Pontypool could be seen inspecting the cover-up for a 20-minute trial run ahead of the latest restrictions coming into force, with witnesses admitting they’d ‘never seen anything like it’.

Mr Drakeford described stopping supermarkets from selling non-essential products during the firebreak lockdown as ‘a straightforward matter of fairness’.

Wales’ Labour leader could not hide his frustration as he was repeatedly questioned on the restrictions, which are now in force for 17 days. He said they were ‘fair’ and crucial to stop the spread of the virus.

Clothes: As well as children’s clothes, adults’ shirts were also seen taped off at the same Cardiff Asda store on Friday

Clothes: Underwear and women’s shirts, dressing gowns and even bras were off-limits to customers at this Tesco store in Wales

Toasted sandwich makers (pictured above in an Asda store in Cardiff) are also now considered a banned item in Welsh shops after the imposition of a 17-day lockdown.

Birthday cards: Anyone with a birthday coming up might be disappointed this year because cards have also been deemed non-essential. Pictured: These cards were seen fenced off at a Cardiff Asda store

He told a press conference in Cardiff on Friday that any suggestion that the ban, which was announced on Thursday, was based on his own politics was ‘nonsensical’.

He said: ‘We are requiring many hundreds of small businesses to close on the high street right across Wales.

‘We cannot do that and then allow supermarkets to sell goods that those people are unable to sell.

‘And we are looking to minimise the amount of time that people spend out of their homes during this two-week period.

‘This is not the time to be browsing around supermarkets looking for non-essential goods.’

Microwaves: Also considered a luxury item, although there is nothing to stop shoppers looking online to buy kitchen goods

Kettles: Also covered with plastic sheeting in an effort to deter customers from putting them in their trolleys

Scented candles: Also on the banned list. This picture was taken at a Tesco store in Pontypool on Friday

Cushions and towels: Christmas-themed cushions, as well as towels, are also considered a non-essential item and were seen fenced off at this Tesco store in Cardiff on Friday

Plates: Decorative plates were also off-limits at this Tesco store in Cardiff as shop staff sought to direct customers to products considered ‘essential’ 

HOW HAVE INFECTIONS IN WALES CHANGED? 

Wales has pulled the trigger on a 17-day ‘firebreak’ lockdown after average daily infections more than tripled in a month.

The rolling seven-day average, considered the most accurate measure of outbreaks because it takes into account day-to-day fluctuations, was 238 on September 23.

It currently stands at 894, analysis of Public Health Wales figures reveal.  

The weekly rate of infections per 100,000 in Wales has also jumped by nearly a quarter in a week.

It currently stands at 199.2, having risen from 160.6 last Friday. 

The rate of 199.2 per 100,000 is considerably higher than Scotland’s 161.2 but still below England’s 213.6.

Northern Ireland – which has the smallest population in the UK, at 1.8million – has the highest rate of the home nations, at 378.6. 

To get a sense of how fast Wales’ crisis has been growing, it was recording just 3.7 cases per 100,000 a week in August, the lowest in the UK.

The nation’s 761 new cases today takes the number of confirmed cases to 40,253. 

A quarter of these were recorded in the last fortnight. 

Since September 11 there have been 10,625 cases – though the true figure is thought to be much higher because so many people are asymptomatic or do not get tested. 

He said trying to find exceptions to the rules was ‘just the wrong’ approach and called on people in Wales to not use the firebreak to do things that they do not have to.

‘It is a straightforward matter of fairness – we are in this together here in Wales,’ he added. 

He was slammed for the stance by TV host Kay Burley who argued that her hairdryer was a necessary item, despite the Welsh leader claiming it classed as a ‘non-essential’ item.

Supermarket customers in Wales yesterday claimed the sale of duvets, bedding and electricals had been stopped by Tesco staff who covered the shelves in plastic. 

Tesco customer Jamie Cole, 31, said the aisle containing kettles and phone chargers was also ‘completely closed off’ despite them being ‘needed’ as temperatures nationwide begin to drop.

Mr Cole said: ‘I was shocked, it’s quite bad. Bedding should be available for kids and mothers. We’re coming up to winter, it’s cold outside, I couldn’t believe it.

‘I don’t have kids of my own but my friend and my sister have kids, she’s quite shocked too. They rely on Tesco as it’s the only supermarket in our town.

‘This was today at 10.49am, the restrictions don’t come into effect until 6pm and all the other supermarkets are fine. The staff are only following orders, It’s happened so quickly. They only announced it at about 7pm last night.

‘I’m 30-odd and I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. You abide by the rules then they do this, it’s quite intimidating. There was another aisle that was completely closed off too, that was the stationery aisle and electricals.  

‘If you needed a kettle or phone charger, that aisle was completely closed off. I’ve done a bit of homework and there’s no list of essential items on the Wales Government website.

‘I guess it’s the supermarket that decides what items are essential.’ 

A spokesperson for Tesco confirmed to MailOnline: ‘Our colleagues across Wales will be working incredibly hard today so we can comply with the Welsh Government’s ban on selling ‘non-essential’ goods to our customers from 6pm this evening.’

It came after Mr Drakeford snapped as he was roasted over his ban on the shops selling the items in his lockdown.

The Labour First Minister could not hide his frustration as he was repeatedly questioned on the restrictions, which came into force at 6pm for 17 days.

He insisted they were ‘fair’ and crucial to stop the spread of the virus. 

Wrapping paper: Even though Christmas is fast-approaching, wrapping paper is also considered a luxury item and was seen taped up at this Tesco store

MPs have hit out at the extreme restrictions, with MP for Tonbridge and Malling, Tom Tugendhat, blasting the Welsh Government for ‘destroying’ jobs on the high street

But when he was challenged over whether it was ‘essential’ for parents to buy new school trousers if their children ripped them, Mr Drakeford moaned: ‘It is just the wrong way to approach this whole business.

‘We are back to the ”how do you we get round the rules” approach to coronavirus.’  

He added tetchily: ‘There is a bigger prize at stake here than whether you need to buy a candle or not.’ 

Mr Drakeford insisted that allowing supermarkets to keep selling clothes and other products while smaller retailers were shut would be unacceptable.

‘We’re all in this together here in Wales,’ he told a press conference in Cardiff. 

‘This is not a period to be browsing around in supermarkets looking for non-essential goods.’ 

However, anger rose as Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething made clear alcohol does count as a key item under the confusing new rules – but insisted hair dryers do not. 

He also conceded that a ‘line by line’ list of what can be sold would be ‘unusable’, saying they were hoping retailers will have a ‘grown up understanding’.   

There are fears it will mean a return to the scenes witnessed at the beginning of the pandemic when there were rows over the contents of people’s shopping trolleys. 

Mr Drakeford said this afternoon that local restrictions had succeeded in stemming the spread of the virus, but were not ‘turning it back’.

He compared the progress in place like Torfaen favourably with areas in England like Oldham. But he said the ‘short sharp shock’ of a lockdown was now essential. 

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