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Welsh First Minister to 'Review' COVID Ban on 'Non-Essential' Goods after Public Outcry

© REBECCA NADENAn empty street on the first full day of the Welsh fire-break lockdown, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues in Haverfordwest, Wales
An empty street on the first full day of the Welsh fire-break lockdown, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues in Haverfordwest, Wales - Sputnik International
Supermarkets are banned from selling goods deemed to be non-essential - including clothes, school stationary and mobile phone chargers - during the Welsh government's 17-day 'firebreak. lockdown. The move is ostensibly to protect small shops forced to close under the measures from unfair competition, but has angered residents.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has pledged to apply "common sense" to his widely-ridiculed lockdown ban on supermarkets selling "non-essential" goods.

The Welsh Labour Party leader said in a tweet on Saturday he would "review" the order issued as part of his 17-day "firebreak" restrictions imposed in a bid to halt the spread of COVID-19 - after tens of thousands signed a petition against the move.

— Mark Drakeford (@fmwales) October 24, 2020

By early Sunday afternoon, more than 57,000 people had signed the online petition on the devolved Welsh Parliament website - and the number was rising fast.

"We do not agree that this is a prudent or rational measure, and will create more harm than good." the petition reads. "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."

The larger branches of British supermarket chains sell a variety of goods, including electronics, CDs, DVDs, computer software books, toys, stationary and clothes. Many parents take advantage of discount school uniform basics like the trousers, skirts and shirts their children need along with pens and paper for their education.

And with Christmas fast approaching, families would be buying gifts early as well as getting costumes and other fun supplies for Halloween next weekend.

Drakeford's insistence that "supermarkets can sell anything that can be sold in any other type of shop that isn't required to close" rang hollow, as the rule was meant to provide a "level playing field" for struggling owners of non-grocery small shops forced to shut their doors during the 'firebreak', anxious that they would lose even more business to superstores.

Commentators have pointed out that the banned goods can still be ordered from online retailers through sites like Amazon and Ebay, further threatening the viability of Wales' high street retailers.

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The response to Drakeford's draconian rules from supermarkets in Wales was varied and apparently confused. Some placed plastic screens over banned items, while others blocked off aisles full of 'non-essential' goods with pallets of soft drinks.

​One outlet in Monmouth was still selling Christmas crackers and Halloween decorations at the weekend, but not socks or tights to keep customers' feet warm in the chilly autumn weather, the Mail on Sunday reported.

The Mail quoted shopper Gwilym Owen, who police said had been charged with several public order offences after tore plastic sheeting of clothes rails in a Bangor store.

"We're heading into winter now and who would have thought clothes for children weren't essential? Denying the public clothing is nothing but immoral. I'm not ashamed of what I've done." Owen said.

The BBC interviewed a mother who was left in tears after she could not buy a set of pyjamas for her daughter after taking her to accident and emergency at a Cardiff hospital.

Chelsea Jones said she had make a 40-mile round tip home to fetch a replacement for her daughter's blood-soaked pyjamas after being refused at a supermarket five minutes away from the hospital

"I was driving around crying in a panic trying to find somewhere that I am able to pick up some essentials for my child," she said. "I have never felt so angry, frustrated or upset, ever. You just never know when a 'non essential item' will become 'essential' to you."

Drakeford's lockdown has also seen police deployed to the figurative 'border' with England to pull over drivers suspected of making journeys deemed unneccesary.

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