Mark Drakeford needs to see evidence before crowd ban is lifted and when he’s likely to get it

First Minister Mark Drakeford has spelled out exactly what he should be watching before restrictions are eased to allow fans to attend sporting events in Wales this year.

Since Boxing Day, professional sports matches in Wales have been taking place behind closed doors, and this situation is set to continue for some time.

In light of this, the Welsh rugby union is now concerned about the prospect of playing a second consecutive Six Nations, which starts in less than a month without fans in attendance.

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Current Welsh government modeling suggests that the peak of the Omicron wave is 10 days to two weeks away. It is also predicted that a sharp drop in cases will occur around the end of January and the beginning of February.

The First Minister confirmed that until we start seeing the number of cases coming down, the restrictions will remain in place.

A graph shown during his Friday briefing showed cases are predicted to drop dramatically in early February, perhaps less than half the 10,000 daily cases currently being seen.

Latest graph from the Welsh Government

With Wales’ first home match against Scotland set to take place on 12 February, it looks like any decision may go over the wire.

Wales’ other home matches, against France and Italy, are not scheduled until March, meaning they are more likely to go ahead with spectators.

Asked what needs to happen before fans are allowed at sporting events, Mr Drakeford said: “We have to look at the time on the Omicron wave.

“Then if the model is accurate and we see that the numbers are decreasing rapidly, we will be in a position to see if it is safe to see more social mixing.

“The issue under the microscope is whether we can [allow fans into stadiums] To be safe, whether the number of people falling ill with the virus is so high that adding to that risk would be a responsible act.

“We won’t know — I know it’s really difficult when you’re organizing a major event — for a couple of weeks.”

Home games against Scotland, France and Italy are in the region of £20 million for the WRU. Losing that kind of revenue would be hard to stomach, especially when fans are allowed to attend events in England.

To date, there has been no indication of what financial aid will be available to them if they miss out on money that is generated from a sold-out Princely Stadium.

That is why the WRU is exploring the possibility of hosting home matches across the Severn River, where fans can participate.

Mr Drakeford, however, assured the WRU would not take that step, but insisted he had no problem exploring their alternatives.

“Of course we would all love to be in a position where the Six Nations can move forward with people watching the game in Wales,” he said.

He said, ‘It is not a matter of dispute between anyone.

“I make no criticism of WRU for exploring all the options available to them.

“They are a business and as a responsible business I feel like they are bound to see all the possibilities.

“Whether they will choose to move on and play the game elsewhere, undoubtedly the risk that it will bring, is a highly debatable question.

“Would I have a problem with them looking at the options – no, I don’t. I think it’s perfectly legitimate for them to be as a multi-million-pound organization.”

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The restrictions, of course, extend beyond rugby.

Cardiff City, Swansea City, Newport County and Wrexham Football Club will all be feeling the restrictions. The Cardiff Devils have a slew of home games coming up later this month.

When the First Minister was told that football club fans could not attend home matches but could travel to away games, he said: “I have been asked a number of questions in recent weeks whether I should Guess whether people do this or not.

“It is not up to the government that each of us has to micro-manage the decision making in our lives.

“We ask people to think carefully and consciously about decisions.

“If they choose to travel elsewhere, we ask that they do so in a way that increases their chances of staying safe.

“The basic advice is that we are in the middle of the fastest growing wave of covid that we have seen in this entire pandemic with a highly contagious form of the virus that is sickening many people, taking more people to hospital And people are dying. Omicron Editions.

“It is the context within which people make their personal decisions.”

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