“Firebreak” lockdown in Wales sees non-essential items covered in grocery stores
11/04/2020 // Ramon Tomey // Views

Grocery stores in Wales have covered up “non-essential items” on their shelves as part of the Welsh government’s lockdown measures. A report by Sun Online shared pictures of supermarket chains Tesco and Asda covering up non-essential goods such as books, clothes, beddings, alcoholic beverages, and electronics. The move came after the Welsh government ordered them to prioritize the sale of so-called “important goods” during the 17-day lockdown.

The prohibition on the sale of non-essential goods came after Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford announced a “firebreak” lockdown after Wales saw an increase in COVID-19 cases. Drakeford added: “A ‘firebreak’ would also mean a short, sharp shock to all our lives – it would mean shutting down businesses and the economy. But this time, it would be for weeks, not months. We would all have to stay at home once again to save lives.”

Drakeford said the rules on what can and what cannot be sold would be “made clear to supermarkets”; however, the Welsh government had not released a list of non-essential goods as of writing. Groceries nevertheless covered up items such as hair dryers, phone chargers and bedsheets on their shelves – adhering to the mandate. A spokesperson for grocery store chain Tesco said: “Our colleagues across Wales will be working incredibly hard ... [to] comply with the Welsh Government's ban on selling 'non-essential' goods to our customers.”

Conservative-leaning Tory members of Parliament have criticized the measures in Wales, which are much harsher than those currently in England. However, Drakeford denied mandating the ban on selling non-essential items because he favored restrictions and regulations – saying that “it is a straightforward matter of fairness.”


The Welsh first minister seconded his decision during an Oct. 22 press conference in Cardiff: “We are looking to minimize the amount of time that people spend out of their homes during this two-week period. This is not the time to be browsing around supermarkets looking for non-essential goods.”

The World Health Organization itself has advised against lockdowns to address COVID-19 outbreaks

The prohibition on the sale of non-essentials was just one of many firebreak lockdown measures implemented in Wales, to run Oct. 23 until Nov. 9.

The Gloucestershire Constabulary confirmed that police checkpoints are also being set up along the border of Wales and England. Police constables will stop people from traveling into Wales and ask their reasons for being outside; they can encourage people to turn around if an unsatisfactory answer is given. Constables will inform Welsh police officers if people refuse to comply with authorities so that fines can be levied against offenders.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has dissuaded countries from implementing lockdowns as a primary response to COVID-19 outbreaks as these were “too damaging.” WHO Special Envoy on COVID-19 Dr. David Nabarro said in early October that the organization “does not advocate lockdowns” to stem the tide of the coronavirus.

Nabarro added: “Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer.” (Related: AG Barr: Coronavirus lockdowns “greatest intrusion on civil liberties” since slavery.)

Lockdowns similar to that of Drakeford’s were implemented in America but were immediately shot down as unconstitutional. One such case happened in Pennsylvania, where small businesses sued Gov. Tom Wolf and the state’s Health Secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, over these lockdown mandates.

District Judge William Stickman IV sided with the small business owners in his September ruling. The magistrate said that although the lockdown orders were implemented “with the good intention of addressing a public health emergency,” he added that any solution to the pandemic “can never be permitted to supersede the commitment to individual liberty.”

Data obtained by Johns Hopkins University show that the entire U.K., where Wales is part of, has a COVID-19 caseload of 920,664 with 45,455 fatalities and 2,719 recoveries.

Find out more news about bans on purchasing non-essential goods and other coronavirus lockdown measures in various countries at Pandemic.news.

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