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Wales lifts non-essential items ban as country enters 'critical phase'
22 March 2021, 07:37
The ban on supermarkets in Wales selling non-essential items has been lifted as the country slowly moves out of lockdown.
All non-essential retail was ordered to close on Christmas Eve last year as the nation entered alert level 4 - a full lockdown - but shops selling essential items such as food could remain open.
It meant supermarkets continued to trade but were banned from selling anything not deemed essential, such as books, DVDs and toys.
Aisles were taped off to stop customers buying non-essential goods as the country entered a second national lockdown in October 2020 but the ban is now being lifted as the country enters a "critical phase" in coming out of the restrictions.
The move received widespread criticism, with many concerned it would encourage people to buy from online giants such as Amazon instead of local shops but ministers insisted it was necessary to control the spread of Covid-19.
Garden centres are also now allowed to open for the first time this year.
It is part of a more cautious approach adopted by the Welsh Government in exiting lockdown due to the highly-infectious Kent variant taking hold in the country.
Ministers warned that if there are strong signs of a growth in infections, relaxations may need to be slowed, paused or even reversed.
On March 27, the "stay local" travel requirement currently in place, which replaced the "stay at home" message, will be lifted and all parts of Wales will move from alert level 4 to 3.
Ahead of the Easter holidays, self-contained accommodation will be allowed to welcome back customers and libraries will reopen, as well as the restarting of organised outdoor children's activities.
From April 12 there will be a full return to schools, colleges and other education settings, with all shops able to reopen and close contact service able to resume.
If infection rates remain stable or continue to fall, ministers will decide on April 22 whether to allow gyms and leisure centres, outdoor attractions, outdoor hospitality, weddings and organised indoor and outdoor activities to resume.
Speaking last week, First Minister Mark Drakeford said: "We are now entering a critical phase in the pandemic.
"We can see light at the end of the tunnel as we approach the end of a long and hard second wave, thanks to the amazing efforts of scientists and researchers across the world to develop effective vaccines.
"Our amazing vaccination programme has made vaccines available to people in the most at-risk groups at incredible speed."
The plan to ease lockdown will be revisited after every eligible adult has been offered a vaccination, which is scheduled to be by the end of July.