Wales’ ban preventing sports fans from attending events will be the first Covid restriction to be lifted within the next fortnight, it has been announced.
First Minister Mark Drakeford will lift the restrictions blocking spectators attending professional fixtures outdoors, which has been in place since Boxing Day amid rising Omicron Covid cases.
The Welsh Government will lift all restrictions to return to alert level zero over two weeks “if the public health situation continues to improve”.
From Saturday, January 15, up to 500 people will now be allowed to attend outdoor events, a rise from 50. It means 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.
It means Welsh rugby fans will be able to attend Wales’ first home Six Nations game at the Principality Stadium against Scotland on February 12.
Welsh fans have been unable to attend professional sporting events since December 26, while there has been growing pressure this week on Mr Drakeford to follow Scotland’s example – with Nicola Sturgeon announcing that fans can return to live sport en masse from next week.
The news is a boost to all sectors of Welsh sport, including Cardiff City, Swansea City, Newport County, Wrexham, parkrun and horse racing.
Concerns had been growing about potential crowd-less Six Nations matches in Cardiff, with professional clubs and sports organisations in Wales having missed out on much-needed revenue in recent weeks.
A government statement issued on Thursday night said: “Mark Drakeford will set out the two-week plan to ease the alert level two restrictions which have been in place since Boxing Day at his press conference.
“The Welsh Government is able to start removing the protections put in place in response to the Omicron wave, thanks to the support of people across Wales and the successful booster campaign – more than 1.75m people have had the extra booster dose.
“The move to alert level zero will be phased, with restrictions on outdoor activities being removed first.”
Amid concerns over whether fans would be able to attend Wales rugby matches at home, there has been plenty of talk of the Welsh Rugby Union taking Wales’ three home matches against Scotland, France and Italy across the Severn Bridge to an English Premier League venue where fans would be permitted to maximise much-needed revenue.
But there is no need for such measures now.