Charities face financial hit as Omicron wave sinks festive swims across Wales
Charities fear big losses after popular festive swims across Wales have been cancelled due to the coronavirus Omicron variant and new restrictions.
The swims usually happen on Christmas Day, 26 December and New Year’s Day, but new Welsh government rules on gatherings which came into force this morning along with the rapid spread of the new variant, has led to the cancellations.
For decades, thousands of swimmers have donned fancy dress and raised money for charity by taking to beaches across Wales, braving the icy sea to celebrate Christmas and welcome in the new year.
The latest cancellations, as a result of the Covid pandemic restrictions mean charities face losing thousands of pounds in sponsorship money.
The RNLI in Rhyl have been thinking of other ways for people to raise money, with the swim at the Denbighshire resort cancelled, and are calling on people to carry on the tradition but using facilities closer to home.
Speaking to the BBC, Callum Robinson, who is on call with the RNLI over Christmas, urged people to stay safe and not put their lives at risk by heading to the sea.
Explaining the challenge, he said: “The idea is for people to do it at home. Get a family member to chuck a bucket of water over you, have a dip in the hot tub or paddling pool or bath.
“But if you are going to do a cold one, please make sure other people are on hand to look after you, we don’t want people getting cold water shock.”
With the country being in lockdown last year, this will be the second year in a row the festive dips have been cancelled.
Swims were due to take place on Christmas day in Porthcawl, and Boxing day events were scheduled in Tenby, Llandudno and Whitesands.
The usual New Year’s Day events at Whitesands, Saundersfoot and Barry Island have also been called off.
The Welsh Government introduced new regulations from today meaning that outdoor events will be limited to 50.
Hoping to restage their event at some point in 2022, organisers in Porthcawl said: “It is with a heavy heart that we have had to make the difficult decision to cancel the traditional event for another year.
“With the recent update to Covid restrictions meaning no more than 50 people can meet outdoors from 6am on Boxing Day, it feels irresponsible for us to encourage up to 5,000 people to meet less than 24 hours earlier.”
Announcing the cancellation of today’s Tenby swim, organisers said: “We hope to see you all the other side of this wretched pandemic.”
St Davids Penknife Club, which arranges the Whitesands swim, released a statement saying it was “devastated” at having to cancel the New Year’s Day event.
“With the increased cases of the new Covid-19 Omicron variant and the strong guidance from the Welsh government for people to leave a day between social events, as a registered charity, we took the responsible course of action to cancel this event.”