The Welsh government is set to review its ban on supermarkets selling “non-essential” items during the country’s 17-day firebreak lockdown for “clarity”.
The restriction – which was introduced in a bid to be ‘fair’ to small businesses forced to close – has seen supermarket aisles cordoned off and plastic sheets placed over ‘banned’ products.
These include areas selling electrical goods, phones, clothes, toys and games, homewares and garden products.
The nation’s health minister Vaughan Gething said the “understanding and the clarity” of the new policy – which has received a huge amount of criticism from the public – would be reviewed with supermarkets.
Gething told the BBC’s 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 lives.”
His comments came after Wales’ first minister Mark Drakeford tweeted on Saturday night that the government would 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,” he wrote. “In the meantime, please only leave home if you need to.”
More than 55,000 people have signed a petition calling for the rule to be overturned.
On Friday, people in Wales told HuffPost UK that the restriction felt like a “punishment” – and could damage people’s mental health during lockdown.
Meanwhile, the Welsh Retail Consortium said the new rule could undermine customers’ safety in supermarkets by changing store layouts and the flow of customers through shops.
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.
But on Sunday, Wales’ deputy minister for economy and transport warned that Wales could be set for another circuit breaker lockdown in January or February.
Lee Waters told BBC Wales’ Sunday Supplement: “I think the projections in the papers we’ve published on our worst-case scenarios shows it’s likely we’re going to need to have another firebreak in January or February.
“It’s important that we can show that we are being rational, we’re being evidence-based and we are being transparent. We are trying our best to do that.”
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.