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Welsh Government under pressure to allow supermarkets to sell clothes during lockdown

Lauretta Roberts
24 October 2020

The Welsh Government is under pressure to reverse its decision to forbid supermarkets selling clothing and other non-essential items during its 17-day firebreak lockdown, which came into force yesterday.

An online petition to demand the ban be reversed had been signed by more than 33,500 people at the time of writing meanwhile the North Wales police and crime commissioner Arfon Jones said the move would only benefit online giants, such as Amazon.

The petition, which was started by Gareth Howell, states: "We do not agree for example that parents should be barred from buying clothes for their children during lockdown while out shopping. This is disproportionate and cruel and we ask that the decision be reversed immediately."

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford announced on Thursday that non-essential items must not be placed on sale during the lockdown, such as clothing, toys, books and homewares, which came into force on Friday. Supermarkets were obliged to cordon off areas and cover certain items with plastic to prevent customers from reaching them.

Reports this weekend say that some consumers have been ripping off the plastic and many have taken to social media to express their dismay at the decision, though some are supportive. There have also been reports of retail staff being intimidated by frustrated members of the public.

The Welsh Government claimed the decision was taken to ensure a level playing field with non-essential retailers that would be obliged to close completely and to prevent shoppers from lingering for too long in-store.

“Supermarkets can keep selling items you can find in other essential shops – such as stationery/greeting cards,” the Welsh Government Tweeted.

“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. This is not for the sake of being difficult – we need to do everything we can to minimise the time we spend outside our homes. This will help save lives and protect the NHS.”

But commissioner Jones disagreed with the move saying the decision was wrong and said the First Minister had made a "bad move" that would only benefit Amazon.

First Minister Drakeford defended the decision but appeared to leave the door open for a reversal of the decision saying the Government would be "reviewing" how the first weekend of lockdown had gone with the supermarkets to ensure "common sense" had been applied.

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