WELSH ministers struggled to defend their “trolley police” rules today – as it emerged people will only be able to buy ‘essential items’ during the ‘firebreak’ lockdown which starts tonight.
During the 17-day lockdown, supermarkets will be unable to sell clothes to customers – and staff will be told to prioritise the sale of “important” essential goods.
All non-essential shops, pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels will be forced to shut altogether during the restrictions, which come into force today at 6pm.
However, food shops, off-licences, pharmacies, banks and post offices will be allowed to remain open.
As yet, the Welsh government has been unable to provide further clarity on what the term ‘essential’ will mean, or how rules will be enforced.
Health minister Vaughan Gething has said that alcohol IS allowed under the confusing new rules – but insisted hair dryers do not.
He said a “line by line” list of what is and isn’t allowed wouldn’t be feasible, but he hoped retailers would have a “grown up understanding” of what it meant.
In a gruelling with Kay Burley on Sky News, Mr Gething said the Welsh government was producing “categories” that are allowed to be sold.
He said: “A supermarket selling clothes isn’t essential… We are looking to have a grown up understanding with them about what they can do so they go ahead and do that.
“We don’t want to get into a line by line going through thousands of of product items. That would be unusable from their point of view and ours.
Welsh people will be ordered to stay at home unless they’re exercising or have vital reasons to leave for the duration of the shutdown.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said the rules on what can be sold and what can’t will be “made clear” to supermarkets.
But it’s left businesses with just hours to put together strategies for the lockdown, which will run until November 9.
Welsh Conservative Andrew RT Davies tweeted: “The power is going to their heads.”
Revellers hit the town in Cardiff last night to enjoy one last big night out for more than two weeks.
Friends put on their best outfits to make the most of the night and spend money in the country’s bars and pubs.
The new rules for Wales are much harsher than those currently used in England, even for areas in tier three.
Scotland is also deploying tougher restrictions.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants more levels of curbs to tackle the pandemic.
And last week, Mr Drakeford told a Senedd committee that he fears the Welsh may be ‘less understanding’ during the latest measures.
“In the last lockdown, people were reasonably understanding of the fact that supermarkets didn’t close all the things that they may have needed to,” he said.
“I don’t think that people will be as understanding this time and we will be making it clear to supermarkets that they are only able to open those parts of their business that provide essential goods to people.
“We will make sure there is a more level playing field in those next two weeks.”
Under the law, firms conducting a business that provides a mixed set of services will be allowed to open if they cease conducting the service that must close.
James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said: “Retailers must not be forced to stop making products available to customers just because ministers don’t think they’re essential.
“These regulations are badly thought out, providing little to no notice to retailers, and must be scrapped to avoid chaos in shops across Wales.
“The confusion and confrontations between customers and shopworkers that this rule will trigger will ultimately lead to more contacts and time spent in proximity to other people, which is the exact opposite of what ministers are aiming to achieve.”
England had a coronavirus infection rate of 166 per 100,000 people in the week of October 14, while Wales had a rate of 163 per 100,000.
Plans for the fire break lockdown have been criticised as being too heavy-handed.
Tory MPs in Westminster say the move is a “blunt instrument”.
Announcing the firebreak, an official from the Welsh government said: “The firebreak is designed to reduce all physical contact between households to an absolute minimum in order to slow the spread of coronavirus and save lives.
“We have a small window in which to take this action and there are no easy choices.”