Supermarkets in Wales will not be allowed to sell items such as clothing and hardware during the Covid-19 firebreak lockdown, the first minister, Mark Drakeford, has said. Drakeford said it will be “made clear” to supermarkets they are only able to sell products that are classed as “essential goods”.
He said this would ensure a “level playing field” as many retailers will be forced to shut when the 17-day lockdown begins on Friday. Shops selling food, off-licences and pharmacies can stay open, but the likes of clothes stores will have to close.
Drakeford made the announcement at a committee of the Senedd, the Welsh parliament, in response to a question from the Conservative member of the Senedd, Russell George, who said it was “unfair” to force independent clothing and hardware retailers to close while similar goods were on sale in supermarkets.
Drakeford said people had been “reasonably understanding” of the limitations on supermarkets during the first lockdown. However, he went on, “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 and that will not include some of the things that Russell George mentioned, which other people are prevented from selling. So, we will make sure there is a more level playing field in those next two weeks.”
From Friday, all leisure and non-essential retail will be closed, including clothes shops, furniture shops and car dealerships. A complete list is yet to be published. Shops allowed to remain open include supermarkets and other food retailers, pharmacies, banks and post offices. Under the law, firms conducting a business that provides a mixed set of services will be allowed to open if they cease conducting the non-essential service.
George said: “It is deeply concerning that, given we are days away from the lockdown, we are still awaiting the publication of a full list of the types of businesses required to close, as well as guidance on business closures.
“At a time of considerable uncertainty, it is totally unacceptable – whether intentionally or not – to create even more concern and anxiety, which is, sadly, what this government is succeeding at.
“The people and businesses of Wales deserve better than being left in the dark. For the sake of people’s jobs and livelihoods, I urge the Welsh Labour-led government to heed our calls and publish a list, without delay.”
Andrew RT Davies, the Conservative shadow health minister, tweeted: “The power is going to their heads.” He later added: “Is a flagon of Strongbow deemed essential? What about some much-needed underpants if you’re caught short?”