COVID-19 restrictions in Wales will be eased over the next two weeks, including limits that had been brought in for live sport, outdoor events and nightclubs, due to the spread of the Omicron variant.
From tomorrow (Saturday) the number of attendees allowed to be present at an outdoor event will rise from 50 to 500. Then, from Friday January 21, crowds will be allowed to return to sporting events, just in time for rugby union’s Six Nations competition in February. From Friday January 28, nightclubs will reopen and hospitality will be able to operate as normal.
However, for large events, nightclubs, theatres and cinemas, attendees will still have to provide proof that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 through the COVID pass.
The Welsh Government will then review the situation every three weeks.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The actions we have taken together have helped us to weather the Omicron storm. The latest data suggests some positive signs that the peak may have passed.
“We can now look more confidently to the future and plan to start gradually removing the alert level 2 restrictions, starting with the outdoors measures.”
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), welcomed the plan from the government but has voiced his frustrations at the ongoing use of COVID passes for nightclubs.
He said: “While we are relieved that we finally have clarity on the Welsh Government’s intentions, it has come at a cost to businesses, staff and supply chain.
“It is difficult to accept that we remain subject to COVID passes for nightclubs in Wales. They were sold as the solution to nightclubs and similar settings remaining open, and that they are an effective way of managing transmission within these environments.
“It is clear from the period of closure and restrictions that this is not the case, it is also clear that there is no evidence base that has been presented by the Welsh Government to support this decision.”
Amid the restrictions, the Welsh Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund announced on Wednesday that a further £15.4m would be made available for the cultural sector in Wales.
The Arts Council of Wales has launched its application process for those in the arts and cultural industry, while music venues, heritage sites, event venues and other independent attractions will have to wait for further information on how to access the financial support.
Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden, said: “We are fully aware that these impacted sectors continue to face new pressures, which is why we’ve been working with the Arts Council to make this additional funding available as soon as possible.
“The innovation and resilience which has been demonstrated by the people and organisations which make these sectors so vibrant has been remarkable, and we want to ensure that the sector continues to play a part in our recovery from the pandemic and in bringing people together once more.”
Earlier this week, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also announced the easing of restrictions for large outdoor events in Scotland, while measures covering indoor events will be reviewed January 18.