Parkrun: Ministers in Wales need to “seriously examine the logic” behind ban on outdoor gatherings
Welsh ministers are being urged to “seriously examine the logic” behind a Covid restriction currently in place that bans outdoor gatherings of 50 people and more.
The restriction means that fans are banned from attending sporting events in Wales and activities such as outdoor running groups are limited to 50 people.
Parkruns across Wales, including Wepre Park’s were cancelled from New Years Day following changes announced by the Welsh government.
Welsh Athletics and parkrun chief operating officer Tom Williams issued a joint letter in response to the ban.
They said: “Welsh Athletics and parkrun are disappointed and concerned by the introduction of prohibitive restrictions that will once again significantly impact on the ability for people to engage with walking, running, and volunteering activities across Wales.”
“The benefits of walking, running, and volunteering for physical and mental health and wellbeing are well documented, and have been championed by many within the Senedd.”
“It is also widely accepted, and supported by the evidence, that not only do outdoor environments present incredibly low risk of virus transmission, but increasing physical activity and health is one of the most important tools for overcoming COVID-19.”
Welsh government ministers are meeting today to carry out the weekly review of the current Covid restrictions.
The reviews moved from a three-weekly cycle to a weekly one in the face of the Omicron surge in Wales.
The result of the review will be announced on Friday but its widely expected the restrictions in Wales will remain unchanged.
The Welsh Conservatives have called on the government in Wales to reconsider its outdoor gathering ban.
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies MS said: “The Labour Government to seriously examine the logic behind its decisions to limit participation in and attending sports events like Parkrun, not only for the sake of mental health but, so that Wales can play its Six Nations games here and fans can spend their money here.”
“It is increasingly clear that the Omicron variant is a milder form of coronavirus and the main issue we have is not mass hospitalisations and deaths – which have not emerged – but the need to isolate, which is affecting services across the board.
“As we come through this difficult period, we will have to, sooner or later, stop talking about moving on from the pandemic, and actually do so with political consensus.”
Surge in cases continues
The infection rate driven by the Omicron wave has surged in Flintshire to nearly 2,300 cases per 100,000 population with 3,541 positive cases reported in the week to January 1.
The latest data published by the Welsh government today shows that as of 4 January 2022, 930 hospital beds were occupied with COVID-19 related patients (confirmed, suspected and recovering), representing 11.1% of all hospitalisations.
This is an increase from 568 on 28 December 2021 (7.2% of all hospitalisations) and is at comparable levels to mid-March 2021.
Despite Covid infections surging to the highest levels since the start of the pandemic, a senior epidemiologist – who has advised both the UK and Welsh governments – has called for restrictions in Wales to return to pre-Omicron levels.
Wales moved to a “revised” version of alert level two on Boxing Day with new measures introduced to try and slow the spread of the fast-moving Omicron wave.
Cardiff University’s Prof John Watkins told the BBC that booster protection and evidence the variant was milder meant the threat was no worse than that posed by Delta.
He said age remains the “major risk factor for poor outcomes”
He told the BBC that factor is currently mitigated by “80 to 90%” of over 70s having had a booster jab.
“We have moved ourselves back to that position where we were in the autumn.” He said.
The Welsh government should think about moving back to its position in November and perhaps “realign” with England. He said.
“We’re now in the same position as we were in the pre-Christmas period, when let’s be honest, we saw the autumn internationals.”
“We had four weekends where you had 80,000 people in a stadium and many, many more and we didn’t see a rise in cases, hospitalizations or death.”
“I think we’re moving more into that situation so my view would be that it is time to review it and, probably, we should certainly be realigning ourselves with the English.”
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