Welsh Government announce sporting events will be played behind closed doors as omicron cases rise
Sporting events will be played behind closed doors from Boxing Day in Wales to help control the spread of the new omicron variant, the Welsh Government has announced.
First Minister Mark Drakeford’s government revealed the new measures for indoor and outdoor sporting events as the latest figures that the number of confirmed cases in Wales had jumped by 163 to 435.
A £3m Spectator Sports Fund will be available to support clubs and sporting venues affected by the new measures to protect public health. Further details about the fund will be available following discussions with the sector.
The Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Sporting events over the Christmas period are one of the big highlights of the year. Unfortunately, the new omicron variant is a significant development in the pandemic and could cause a large number of infections.
“We need to do everything we can to protect people’s health and control the spread of this awful virus.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have followed scientific and public health advice to keep people safe. The advice is clear – we need to act now in response to the threat of omicron. We are giving people as much notice of these decisions as we can.
“Crowds will come back as soon as possible. We want everyone to be here to enjoy their favourite sports.”
The decision comes after the UK Government said that they would not be introducing any new restrictions in England for the time being, with the Prime Minister facing considerable opposition by MPs within his own party.
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he would not “hesitate” to take action if the situation deteriorated further.
The decision to move sporting events behind closed doors in Wales comes as some football clubs have already announced Christmas matches have been postponed because of cases of Covid-19 in their squads.
Cardiff City FC has postponed its Boxing Day match against Coventry City due to several cases of Covid-19 in its playing squad and staff. And League Two leaders Forest Green will not be playing Newport County.
Ospreys v Dragons on 26 December has also been called off.
The overall rate of coronavirus infections is rising in Wales and now stands at just under 550 cases per 100,000 people.
Dr Meng Khaw, National Director for Health Protection and Screening Services for Public Health Wales, said that “a rapid increase over the coming days and weeks is expected”.
61% of those people eligible for a vaccine have now been reached in Wales, while 18% of vaccination appointments across Wales were not kept over the weekend, according to the Welsh Government.
The First Minister last week warned of a gathering storm of omicron infections after the Christmas period as some strengthened measures were introduced from 27 December to protect lives and livelihoods.
The coronavirus regulations, including playing sports behind closed doors, will be reviewed regularly.