By Rod Minchin, PA

The ban on supermarkets in Wales selling non-essential items is being lifted today as the country slowly moves out of lockdown.

All non-essential retail was ordered to close on Christmas Eve last year as Wales entered alert level 4, but shops selling essential items such as food could remain open.

It meant supermarkets continued to trade but they 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, but this ban is now being lifted.

Garden centres are also now allowed to open for the first time this year.

It is part of a more cautious approach being adopted by the Welsh Government in leaving lockdown due to the emergence of the highly-infectious Kent variant of the virus.

It has warned that if there are strong signs of a growth in infections, relaxations may need to be slowed, paused or reversed.

On March 27 the “stay local” travel requirement will be lifted, which will move Wales from alert level 4 to 3.

Ahead of the Easter holidays, from March 27 self-contained accommodation will be allowed to resume business, libraries will reopen and organised outdoor children’s activities can resume.

From April 12 there will be a full return to schools, colleges and other education settings, all shops will reopen and close contact services will 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.