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Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Wednesday temporarily allowed the use of plastic bags at supermarkets and other retail stores in Boston, lifting a heralded ban that took effect in December 2018 to reduce pollution.

The move comes amid concerns about the potential dangers of reusable bags in spreading the coronavirus. Cambridge and New Hampshire have lifted similar bans on plastic bags.

"During this challenging time, we understand the retail establishments our residents rely on — like grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants — need added flexibility to best serve their customers," Walsh said. "We are adjusting Boston's plastic bag ordinance to give establishments and residents the help they need during this time."

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This temporary exemption applies to all retail establishments that qualify as essential businesses, as designated by Governor Charlie Baker’s emergency order on Monday. The order took effect on Tuesday and will remain in effect until the city’s public health emergency ends.


David Abel can be reached at david.abel@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.