Welsh Government ‘haven’t learnt lessons of 2020 Six Nations’ over Covid spread at rugby says MS
The scenes in Cardiff before and after the Wales v New Zealand rugby match on Saturday suggests that the Welsh Government hasn’t learnt the lessons of the 2020 Six Nations, a Senedd Member has said.
Mabon ap Gwynfor said that what he saw in Cardiff on the day of the All Blacks match showed the need for a Welsh Covid inquiry in order to ascertain what the Welsh Government had learnt from past experience.
In 2020 the Wales v Scotland match was cancelled by the WRU just 24 hours before kick off due to the Covid pandemic, after the Welsh Government said that it would be going ahead.
Speaking in the Senedd today, Health Minister Eluned Morgan however said she thought the Covid passes for people to enter the Principality Stadium had “been quite successful”.
“Certainly, when it comes to the rugby on the weekend, the kind of spot-check implementation that we saw did seem to work quite effectively,” she said. “People got to the stadium about half an hour before they usually would.
“So, the Welsh Rugby Union certainly seemed quite satisfied with the way things worked out there.”
But Mabon ap Gwynfor responded that relying on Covid passes alone for matches would not stop the rapid spread of the virus.
“You mentioned that the WRU were happy with the Cpvid passes,” he said. “That might be the case, but tens of thousands of people came off buses and trains and went into pubs, were singing and shouting, and none of them were wearing a face mask.
“I was here in Cardiff and I didn’t see a single face mask, which suggests that you perhaps haven’t learnt the lessons since last year’s Six Nations, and shows why we need an independent inquiry into Covid here in Wales.”
The Health Minister said that any change from a Covid passes to more stringent measures such as a passport would be an “escalation”.
“I think we have to strike a balance, and we have to consider that balance,” she said. “It is a political call.”
Yesterday, the Welsh Government-owned Transport for Wales had also been criticised after “shocking images” of overcrowding on trains were uploaded to social media before Wales played New Zealand on Saturday.
A video posted online showed fans on the Milford Haven to Cardiff train, standing shoulder to shoulder in the aisles, with some unmasked.
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Transport, Natasha Asghar MS, said the footage showed that the train operator, which was nationalised by the Welsh Government last year, had packed people in “like sardines”.
“The people of Wales seem to be getting accustomed to travelling on crammed trains, especially on rugby days which we all know always attract large crowds,” Natasha Asghar said.
“Frankly, the lack of trains is just unacceptable. This fixture had been in the calendar for weeks and was not a surprise to anyone, yet Transport for Wales still failed to take action to make sure adequate trains were running.
“I have said on many occasions – inside and outside of the Senedd – that more trains are needed, especially now as life is slowly returning to normal and people are travelling again, but it’s clear bosses at Transport for Wales didn’t have their finger on the pulse over the weekend.
“It is vital that the Welsh Government-owned body steps up to the plate and ensures enough trains and carriages are running to cope with the high numbers of people for the rest of the autumn international matches.”
Responding to the Conservatives’ comments, a spokesperson for Transport for Wales said that the weekend was the first large-scale event since the pandemic and nearly 75,000 people attended the match in Cardiff, with around 30,000 passengers using their train services.
“We ran as many services as possible, every serviceable carriage was in use, and where we could, we strengthened services on popular routes. Other operators serving Cardiff did the same.
“TfW is delivering a transformational programme of improvements across the Wales and borders rail network that will see more than £800 million invested in new trains and infrastructure upgrades. The new trains will start to arrive on the network from next year, providing improved capacity and more frequent services.
“It’s a large-scale operation to transport tens of thousands of people on an event day and we’d like to thank our customers for their cooperation on the day.”
Speaking in the Senedd today, Senedd Member Rhun ap Iorwerth said that he had seen an increase in people not wearing mass on trains.
“We need to do something different now in order to reinforce that message and to ensure that the legislation is being implemented, because it is clear that the legislation, in and of itself, isn’t enough,” he said.