The first easing of Wales’ Covid restrictions on outdoor activities and sports will happen this Saturday, Mark Drakeford has revealed.
From Saturday, January 15, up to 500 people will now be allowed to attend outdoor events, a rise from 50.
It means popular parkrun events in Wales can return as long as no more than 500 people attend, having been scrapped since Boxing Day.
Much larger crowds are also now permitted at community sports matches from Saturday, with the rules allowing 500 people in total to be present.
Full crowds will be allowed to attend outdoor events from next Friday, January 21, meaning professional sports teams can welcome back capacity stadiums from then.
Asked if we could now say with certainty that Wales’ Six Nations matches will be played in front of full crowds, Mr Drakeford said: “Provided the numbers continue to fall, that is what we are announcing today. I have to put that ‘if’ in there as we follow the data and we follow the science. We are confident, from what we are told, that we are past the peak, and we are coming rapidly down the other side.
“We have seen many surprises with coronavirus. We need to see that pattern sustained for another week, and then next Friday, I hope to confirm, finally, that that is what can happen. We are briefing on it today because we think that is the path we are on.”
Mr Drakeford will hold a press conference at 12.15pm, which you can follow live here.
The first rugby professional rugby match to welcome back fans will be the Scarlets’ Champions Cup clash against Bristol Bears at Parc y Scarlets on January 22.
With the other Welsh sides either away that weekend or not in action, they will all have to wait until the following weekend to welcome back fans.
The Dragons welcome Benetton to Newport on January 28, allowing them to have fans back in Rodney Parade for the first time since November.
Both the Ospreys and Cardiff will see home fans for the first time this year the following day, with home fixtures against Edinburgh and Leinster respectively on January 29.
In the world of football, the first Welsh side to welcome back fans will be Swansea City – who take on Preston North End at the Swansea.com Stadium on January 22.
Wrexham would be next, with a mid-week clash against Grimsby at the Racecourse pencilled in for January 25.
Cardiff City and Newport County would have to wait until the following weekend. County welcome Barrow to Rodney Parade on January 29, while Nottingham Forest are the visitors to Cardiff City Stadium the following day.
Saturday, January 15 – the number of people who can take part in an event outdoors will rise from 50 to 500.
Friday, January 21 – all outdoor activities will move to alert level zero. No limits on the number of people who can take part in outdoor activities, crowds will be able to return to sporting events.
Friday, January 28 – Wales will move to alert level zero for all indoor places and nightclubs will be able to open. Reviews will return to being every three weeks.
Covid passes will still be needed for large events, cinemas and nightclubs.
Get all the latest rugby news and headlines sent straight to your inbox for free every day by signing up to our newsletter. Just choose ‘Rugby top stories newsletter’ here.