Escape from Wales: UK Police Set Up Checkpoints with Lockdown Region

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MAY 06: Two police officers walk past posters on Sauchiehall Street during the coronavirus lockdown on May 6, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. The country continues quarantine measures intended to curb the spread of Covid-19, but the infection rate is falling, and government officials are discussing the terms …
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

An English police force has set up roadblocks along parts of the border with Wales to question people leaving during the lockdown. If drivers do not give a sufficient reason for travel and refuse to turn around, officers will inform their Welsh counterparts.

Wales went into a 17-day so-called “fire-break” lockdown on Friday after seeing a rise in coronavirus cases, with 1,756 dying of the virus in the country of three million. Measures include a ban on non-essential travel. Gloucestershire Police, an English force in a border county with the Celtic nation, said that they will stop any vehicles they suspect are making unnecessary journeys out of Wales.

“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.

“Officers will be running an operation from tomorrow [24 October] 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 encouraging them to turn around if we are not satisfied with their explanation,” a spokesman from the force told ITV on Friday.

The Associated Press reported on Saturday that another English police force bordering Wales, West Mercia, said it will also be working with its Welsh counterparts to “enforce, where necessary, the relevant rules for the area we serve”.

While the Welsh force, Gwent Police, began road patrols last night, stopping ten “vehicles of interest” and issuing six fines for breach of the Welsh government’s coronavirus lockdown.

People from outside Wales are also being discouraged from entering the country.

The fire-break lockdown also sees pubs, restaurants, gyms, and ‘non-essential’ shops closed. Only shops that sell food, pharmacies, and off-licences may remain open. However, a controversial caveat is that food shops are not allowed to sell so-called ‘non-essential’ items either, seeing supermarkets cordon off whole areas of their stores to stop customers in Wales buying certain products.

Media have reported Welshmen’s incredulity at the items that have been deemed ‘non-essential’, including bedding, cooking tools, eating utensils, adult clothing, and even baby clothes.

Wales’s first minister, Mark Drakeford, claimed that the ban would offer a “level playing field” for the smaller businesses that he forced to shut, effectively meaning that if you cannot buy an electric kettle at a small retailer, you will not be allowed to buy them at a large one in Wales, either.

Welsh and British lawmakers have criticised First Minister Drakeford for the move.

Conservative member of the Welsh assembly Andrew RT Davies mocked the Labour-led Senedd, asking: “Is a flagon of Strongbow deemed essential? What about some much-needed underpants if you’re caught short?”

Tom Tugendhat, a Conservative MP in the Westminster parliament, said: “This is a step too far. What gives the Labour Party the right to decide what families need?”

While former MEP in the European Parliament Daniel Hannan remarked: “How is this supposed to slow the infection rate? Or is it just some weird Labour anti-capitalist thing?”

Brexit Party leader and former MEP Nigel Farage said: “This lunacy in Wales is astounding. Who judges what is essential?”

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