// Wales FM Mark Drakeford says grocers have “discretion” over the ban on selling non-essential items
// He says people may need to buy such items for “unexpected reasons which they couldn’t have foreseen” during firebreak lockdown
// 60,000 people have signed a petition calling for the ban to be immediately reversed
Grocers have “discretion” over the Welsh Government’s ban on selling non-essential items during the firebreak lockdown, the First Minister has said.
Mark Drakeford said people may need to buy such products “for entirely unexpected reasons which they couldn’t have foreseen” during the 17-day period.
The restriction has seen aisles cordoned off and plastic sheeting placed over items including children’s clothes, bedding and kettles.
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Around 60,000 people have signed a petition submitted to the Welsh Parliament calling for the ban to be immediately reversed.
Under the firebreak lockdown, which began at 6pm on Friday and will end on November 9, non-essential retail including fashion and furniture stores must close.
Supermarkets have been told they must only sell essential items to discourage people from spending more time than necessary in shops and be fair to retailers that have to shut.
“I won’t need – I don’t think – to buy clothing over this two weeks and I think many, many people in Wales will be in that position too,” Drakeford told ITV Wales News.
“For me, it won’t be essential. But I recognise that there will be some people who for entirely unexpected reasons which they couldn’t have foreseen will need to buy items.
“In those circumstances where those welfare reasons are at stake, we will make sure that our supermarkets understand they have the discretion to apply the rules differently.”
Drakeford said ministers would meet with supermarkets on Monday to discuss the ban.
“They will want to do the right thing, I know, and our job is to be alongside them to make sure that is clear for everybody,” he said.
Drakeford did not rule out the possibility of a second firebreak lockdown in Wales early next year.
The current restrictions should give a pathway to Christmas “without needing a period of this severity of restraint between now and then”, he said.
“In the new year, who knows what position we will face,” Drakeford told ITV Wales News.
“If things were to be again as serious as they are in Wales today, nobody can rule out us needing to take further extraordinary measures.
“But if we do, it will be because it is the only way that we are able to deal with this deadly virus.”
The ban on selling non-essential items was announced in the Senedd on Thursday after Conservative MS Russell George said it was “unfair” to force independent fashion and hardware retailers to shut while similar goods were on sale in major supermarkets.
On Sunday, the Welsh Retail Consortium called for the restriction to be “dropped quickly”.
It warned that the “safe flow of customers” could be undermined due to changes in store layouts to cordon off areas.
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 lockdown.
These include areas selling electrical goods, telephones, clothes, toys and games, garden products and dedicated sections for homewares.
Welsh Conservatives leader Paul Davies has asked for the Welsh Parliament to be recalled so members can discuss the ban.
He described the popularity of the petition as a “clear sign” that people in Wales want the rule “scrapped immediately”.
Under the firebreak rules, people can only leave their home for limited reasons, such as to buy food and medicine, provide care or take exercise, and must work from home where possible.
Leisure, hospitality and tourism businesses are closed, along with community centres, libraries and recycling centres, while places of worship are shut other than for funerals or wedding ceremonies.
with PA Wires
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