Thousands of people have signed a petition calling on the Welsh government to reverse a ban on supermarkets selling non-essential items during the firebreak lockdown in Wales.
First minister Mark Drakeford said the restriction was a “matter of fairness” as non-essential retail has to close during the two-week period, which began at 6pm on Friday and will last until November 9.
People living in Wales told HuffPost UK on Friday that the ban on non-essential items – including clothes, toys, electrical goods, phones, gardening products and homeware – felt like a “punishment”.
Guidance published by the Welsh government says certain sections of supermarkets must be “cordoned off or emptied, and closed to the public”.
Supplies for the “essential upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household” – such as batteries, lightbulbs and rubber gloves – can be sold during the lockdown.
Just hours into the firebreaker lockdown a video emerged on social media of a man ripping plastic covers off of items deemed to be non-essential at a Tesco Extra store in Bangor.
Images posted on social media showed aisles selling products such as children’s clothes, greetings cards and books blocked off, with plastic sheeting placed over items to prevent shoppers from accessing them.
Yeah...totally normal and necessary measures in the Welsh Firebreak 🙄 pic.twitter.com/j2cY2tqzSL
— Joe 🦩 (@Joe_363_) October 23, 2020
Mark Drakeford's banned books pic.twitter.com/J0LIc14cgf
— Sam Warrenger (@SamWarrenger) October 23, 2020
A petition calling on the Welsh government to allow supermarkets to sell non-essential items had received more than 19,000 signatures at the time of writing on Saturday afternoon.
“We do not agree that this is a prudent or rational measure, and will create more harm than good,” the petition 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.”
Drakeford said on Friday that stopping supermarkets from selling non-essential items was “a straightforward matter of fairness” as hundreds of high street businesses had been forced to closed.
He told a press conference in Cardiff that it was also “not the time to be browsing around supermarkets looking for non-essential goods”.
During the two-week lockdown, all leisure and non-essential retail are closed including clothes shops, furniture stores and car dealerships.
The ban was announced in the Welsh parliament on Thursday following a question to Drakeford from Conservative MS Russell George.
George said it was “unfair” to force independent clothing and hardware retailers to shut while similar goods were on sale in major supermarkets.
On Saturday, Andrew RT Davies, shadow health minister of the Welsh Conservatives, called for the ban to be “dropped immediately”.
He said: “This ludicrous ban has caused real anger across Wales and it’s not fair on those staff working in our supermarkets, and the general Welsh public who are already at their wit’s end with a difficult fortnight looming.”
Under lockdown 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.
The rate of coronavirus across Wales was 156.8 cases per 100,000 people on Friday, with only one county under the Welsh government’s threshold for intervention of 50 cases per 100,000.
On Saturday, a further 1,324 people were reported to have tested positive for coronavirus in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 41,577.
Public Health Wales said 16 people with Covid-19 had died, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic rising to 1,772.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.