Coronavirus: Review ordered into Wales's non-essential items ban 'to make sure common sense is applied'

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The Welsh government is to review how the ban on supermarkets selling non-essential items is working to make sure "common sense is applied", First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

More than 34,000 people have signed a petition calling on politicians to reverse the ban, which it described as "disproportionate and cruel".

As Wales entered a 17-day coronavirus "firebreak" lockdown, photos on social media showed products such as pillows and bedsheets under a plastic covering at a Tesco store.

One social media user pointed out how baby clothes have been deemed to be non-essential in a Tesco supermarket in Cardiff, while vodka was still available on the shelves in the same store.

Meanwhile, a photo from a Tesco store in Pengam Green showed products including cups and plates behind metal barriers.

Mr Drakeford 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."

The leader of the opposition in the Welsh parliament, Paul Davies, branded the ban "madness".

The Conservative added that he has written to the presiding officer of the Senedd to call members back so they can debate the measures.

He said: "The Welsh Labour-led government may not think these items are essential, but many will beg to differ."

But in an earlier post on its Twitter account, the Welsh government said the measures 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 said.

"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."

It added that people in Wales must "do everything we can to minimise the time we spend outside our homes" to save lives and protect the health system.

Sainsbury's has emptied shelves and closed part of its store in Tenby that would usually be selling non-essential items.

A sign in the store reads: "Following latest government public health restrictions, we are unable to sell certain items, including plants & flowers, general merchandise, homeware or clothing."

Sky's correspondent Becky Johnson, says socks and tights have been cordoned off at a supermarket in Monmouth - but Halloween decorations, Christmas crackers and advent calendars can still be purchased.

One shopper told her that he thinks "the Welsh government has lost the plot".

Members of the public have expressed their disbelief at the government measures.

One man was filmed ripping plastic coverings off non-essential items in the supermarket.

Gwilym Owen wrote on Facebook: "I had enough last night. I don't care about the backlash that I may get from this. Last night I heard supermarkets have put covers over 'non essential' things such as clothes. We're heading into winter now and who would have thought clothes for children weren't essential?

"I don't expect everyone to do what I've done here but I do expect everyone to know that denying the public clothing is nothing but immoral and inhuman. So no I'm not ashamed of what I've done."

A user with the Twitter name Milena ZP wrote: "Not impressed with not being able to purchase items.

"Not thinking of anybody least of all disabled people. Kettle breaks down like ours did in last lockdown at least we could buy one in the supermarket.

"Using a pan of hot water is not viable whilst waiting for delivery for a disabled person like myself. These items are essential and not just for making tea, it's for hot water bottles helping ease pain.

"So classing these items as non essential is wrong."

Twitter user Philippa Smallwood wrote: "It's absolutely ridiculous what is going on in Wales btw (by the way).

"Supermarkets having to tape off aisles as it is not essential items. Pretty sure that if you are isolated for 17 days and your kettle packs in, you should be able to buy a new one."

Fellow Twitter user Lucy Heath wrote: "Words fail me. How is a microwave not essential for someone if theirs breaks? Same with a kettle?

"Or a duvet/blanket with the weather getting colder? Yet again it's the people struggling financially that are the hit the hardest... definitely not "in this together" in Wales!"