The Welsh Government will review the “understanding, clarity and policy” of a ban on supermarkets selling non-essential items during Wales’ firebreak lockdown, Health Minister Vaughan Gething has said.
Mr Gething said the restriction, which has seen aisles cordoned off and plastic sheeting placed over products, had been applied differently in stores across Wales.
More than 50,000 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 clothes shops, furniture stores and car dealerships must close.
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.
— Mark Drakeford (@fmwales) October 24, 2020
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 who have to shut.
On Saturday evening, First Minister Mark Drakeford tweeted that ministers would be “reviewing how the weekend has gone” with supermarkets and “making sure that common sense is applied”.
Mr Gething told The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday: “We’re reviewing with supermarkets the understanding and the clarity and the policy because there’s been different application in different parts.
“We all need to step back and remember why the firebreak has been introduced, to recognise that it is hard on lots of people, but we’re in a week where we’ve already seen 61 deaths take place here in Wales.
“Just about a month ago there were only six deaths in a week so coronavirus is taking off. We are seeing more people lose their loves.”
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 clothing and hardware retailers to shut while similar goods were on sale in major supermarkets.
Mr Gething told the BBC the Welsh Government had worked with supermarkets on the ban and discussed which items were affected by it.
“We’ll talk to them again on Monday so everyone understands the position we’re in to have some clarity,” Mr Gething said.
“It’s also about reducing the opportunity for contacts. That’s what we’re really trying to do – we’re asking people to stay at home to stay lives, that really is right back where we are.”
The Welsh Retail Consortium called for the ban to be “dropped quickly” and warned it could result in the “safe flow of customers” being undermined due to changes in store layouts.
The petition calling for the end of the ban has been signed by thousands.
It's a clear sign to Labour Ministers that people want this rule scrapped. I’ve written to the Presiding Officer, asking for the Welsh Parliament to meet to resolve this matter.👇https://t.co/GoQNjL3UyX
— Paul Davies MS/AS (@PaulDaviesPembs) October 24, 2020
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.
Paul Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, 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.
On Sunday, 1,104 people were reported to have tested positive for coronavirus in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 42,681.
Public Health Wales said five people with Covid-19 had died, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic rising to 1,777.