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No escape! Police in Wales set up to checkpoints to quiz motorists in essential trips crackdown

Police in Wales have set up checkpoints to quiz motorists over whether they are making essential journeys, while forces in England have vowed to turn drivers around who don’t have a good reason for crossing the border. 

Wales imposed a strict 17-day ‘fire-breaker’ lockdown on Friday which bars people from leaving their homes except for exercise, buying essential supplies or providing care.

Despite differing rules in England under the three-tiered system, zealous police forces in the border counties of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire have promised to set up their own stops to question drivers leaving the Principality. 

Train passengers are also facing stringent checks, as British Transport Police have made plain on Twitter by warning that ‘those who think the rules don’t apply to them & selfishly break them, need to be worried about being spoken to by us.’ 

Police in Carmarthenshire, Wales, carry out spot checks on drivers after the ‘fire-breaker’ lockdown was brought in

British Transport Police North Wales division sparked fury for this tweet reminding people they will be checking trains

British Transport Police North Wales division sparked fury for this tweet reminding people they will be checking trains 

British Transport Police North Wales have been posting frequently on Twitter about how they are enforcing the lockdown

British Transport Police North Wales have been posting frequently on Twitter about how they are enforcing the lockdown

Following the outcry over their tweets about checking trains, they made a series of tweets to 'put a few things straight' which outlined the elementary basis for the rules

Following the outcry over their tweets about checking trains, they made a series of tweets to ‘put a few things straight’ which outlined the elementary basis for the rules

Traffic flowing freely over the border at Chepstow on Sunday despite the draconian travel ban

Traffic flowing freely over the border at Chepstow on Sunday despite the draconian travel ban

An unmarked police car in Powys, Wales, keeps an eye on the road to check for essential travel

An unmarked police car in Powys, Wales, keeps an eye on the road to check for essential travel

The police have been posting pictures of themselves out on the beat, the forces of Carmarthenshire and Powys tweeting images of their road-blocks and British Transport Police’s North Wales division, of officers moving up and down carriages.

Non-essential or essential? What we know about what goods are banned in Wales’ lockdown firebreak 

First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced that non-essential items should not be sold during the country’s firebreak lockdown.

So far the Welsh government has not published a public list of what these goods include.

The supermarkets have also not responded on whether they have been given specific instructions on what they cannot sell.

But it appears these items cannot be sold during the 17 days of restrictions:

  • Hairdryers
  • Stationary 
  • Kettles
  • Other kitchen goods such as microwaves and toasted sandwich makers 
  • Phone chargers
  • Duvets
  • Sheets 
  • Electrical products
  • Scented candles
  • Clothes
  • Children’s toys
  • Towels and cushions
  • Wrapping paper 

BTP North Wales faced a barrage of outrage for their tweets, to which they responded: ‘Right folks – the last tweet generated a fair amount of comment so let’s put a few things straight.’

It then goes on to outline that ‘Wales is on lockdown. You should not be out without a reasonable excuse. It is our job to enforce the current regulations. We did this throughout the previous lockdown too.’

However, despite the ambitious police forces, the vast network of roads across the 160-mile frontier makes enforcement almost impossible and traffic was pictured flowing freely over the border at Chepstow on Sunday. 

This week police revealed extraordinary plans to patrol the line in order to stop families from crossing over for a half-term holiday.

Officers said they would try to stop caravans sneaking into England from Wales and deter Welsh motorists defying First Minister Mark Drakeford’s ‘power-mad’ orders from making ‘non-essential’ journeys.

Gloucestershire Police announced an operation covering routes from Wales into the Forest of Dean where officers would stop motorists travelling into England to find out what they were doing.

Drivers would be encouraged to turn around and head back to Wales if officers ‘are not satisfied with their explanation’, a spokesman said.

If they refuse, police will tell forces in Wales so they can issue fines.

People caught breaking the rules in Wales can be fined up to £10,000, with penalties starting at £60.   

However, drivers have been seen since Friday crossing the border on the A494 at Queensferry and on the A5445 between Chester and Wrexham in a breach of the new restrictions. 

A spokesman for Gloucestershire Constabulary said: ‘While we cannot issue fines to those travelling from Wales into the county we can inform the host force of those we stop about what has happened so they can take action. 

A caravan entering Wales at Chepstow on Sunday afternoon despite strict rules on essential travel

A caravan entering Wales at Chepstow on Sunday afternoon despite strict rules on essential travel

Officers in Carmarthenshire have a road block set up for drivers entering the town

Officers in Carmarthenshire have a road block set up for drivers entering the town

‘Officers will be running an operation from tomorrow and over the weekend that will cover routes from Wales into the Forest of Dean and if we stop someone travelling from Wales we will be engaging with them to find out why, explaining the legislation and encouraging them to turn around if we are not satisfied with their explanation.

‘If they don’t then turn around we will then inform the force that polices the area they have travelled from so that they can issue a fine.

‘It is important to stress that the vast majority of people are abiding by the rules but in line with our policing approach, we will take action where there are flagrant breaches.’ 

Welsh ministers today revealed they are already planning for another ‘firebreaker’ lockdown after Christmas – as they conceded their ‘trolley police’ ban on shops selling non-essential goods is not working properly.

First Minister Mark Drakeford speaking at a press conference in Cardiff ahead of Wales entering a two-week "firebreak" lockdown at 6pm on Friday

First Minister Mark Drakeford speaking at a press conference in Cardiff ahead of Wales entering a two-week “firebreak” lockdown at 6pm on Friday

Despite the imposition only having been in place since Friday, deputy economy minister Lee Waters urged people to brace for a re-run in January or February.

The warning came as Mr Drakeford signalled a U-turn is coming on the ban on shops selling non-essential goods, saying he recognised the public was ‘fed up’ and ‘common sense’ was needed.

A backlash has been gathering pace, with bewilderment that alcohol is seen as ‘essential’ but school uniform, vacuum cleaners and hairdryers are not.

Supermarkets have actively taped off shelves of ordinary goods, blocking off entire aisles or covering them in plastic. 

But critics have branded the move ‘madness’ and said the only person to benefit will be Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, as shoppers will just buy things online instead.

The Welsh Government was also unable to provide clarity over what goods counted as ‘essential’, with one minister instead saying that he hoped retailers would have a ‘grown-up understanding’. 

More than 50,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Welsh Government to reverse the ban, which it described as ‘disproportionate and cruel’.

And last night Mr Drakeford tweeted: ‘Thank you for all your efforts over the last 24 hours to stay at home. We know people are fed up.

‘It’s not easy, but we all have a responsibility to stop the virus spreading.

Whole areas of supermarkets have been closed off in line with the restrictions imposed by Welsh ministers

Whole areas of supermarkets have been closed off in line with the restrictions imposed by Welsh ministers

Retailers have been ordered to sell only essential goods and so many supermarket aisles are roped off and products covered up

Retailers have been ordered to sell only essential goods and so many supermarket aisles are roped off and products covered up

Items including children's clothes are covered up 'in line with government guidelines' at a supermarket in Cardiff today

Items including children’s clothes are covered up ‘in line with government guidelines’ at a supermarket in Cardiff today

‘We’ll 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. In the meantime, please only leave home if you need to.’

Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething suggested the review would look at why the rules were not being applied consistently.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘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 loves.’

He said the Welsh Government had worked with supermarkets on the ban and discussed which items were affected by it.

‘We’ll talk to them again on Monday so everyone understands the position we’re in to have some clarity,’ Mr Gething said.

Labour leader Mr Drakeford has been facing criticism over the ban on non-essential sales during the 'firebreak' lockdown, and tweeted last night admitting people were 'fed up'

Labour leader Mr Drakeford has been facing criticism over the ban on non-essential sales during the ‘firebreak’ lockdown, and tweeted last night admitting people were ‘fed up’

On the BBC's Andrew Marr show today, Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething suggested the review in Wales would look at why the rules were not being applied consistently

On the BBC’s Andrew Marr show today, Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething suggested the review in Wales would look at why the rules were not being applied consistently

‘It’s also about reducing the opportunity for contacts. That’s what we’re really trying to do – we’re asking people to stay at home to stay lives, that really is right back where we are.’

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales’s Sunday Supplement, Mr Waters said: ‘The projections and papers we published on our worse-case scenario projections show it is likely we are going to need another firebreak in January or February.’

He said the first and second lockdowns came too late and cases and deaths are rising again.

‘We are doing our best to flatten the curve. We can’t stop the curve, we can’t stop the virus spreading. Our best hope is to wait for a vaccine to help us bring it under control.’ 

HOW HAVE INFECTIONS IN WALES CHANGED? 

Wales has pulled the trigger on a 17-day ‘firebreak’ lockdown after average daily infections more than tripled in a month.

The rolling seven-day average, considered the most accurate measure of outbreaks because it takes into account day-to-day fluctuations, was 238 on September 23.

It currently stands at 894, analysis of Public Health Wales figures reveal.  

The weekly rate of infections per 100,000 in Wales has also jumped by nearly a quarter in a week.

It currently stands at 199.2, having risen from 160.6 last Friday. 

The rate of 199.2 per 100,000 is considerably higher than Scotland’s 161.2 but still below England’s 213.6.

Northern Ireland – which has the smallest population in the UK, at 1.8million – has the highest rate of the home nations, at 378.6. 

To get a sense of how fast Wales’ crisis has been growing, it was recording just 3.7 cases per 100,000 a week in August, the lowest in the UK.

The nation’s 761 new cases today takes the number of confirmed cases to 40,253. 

A quarter of these were recorded in the last fortnight. 

Since September 11 there have been 10,625 cases – though the true figure is thought to be much higher because so many people are asymptomatic or do not get tested. 


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