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Campaign group say Welsh Government pilot events are “foot dragging theatre and delay tactics”

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group of people in a concert

The Welsh Government’s pilot test events purportedly designed to help them devise a roadmap out of lockdown for public events and gatherings are simply no more than foot-dragging and cynical political theatre, says Unite For The Night, who have discovered there was no testing protocol for attendees at one of the pilot test events held last month.

The industry body which represents around 170 night time economy businesses in Cardiff and Swansea, says it is deeply disappointed to learn that the Swansea City Championship play-off – which had been promoted as one of Welsh Government’s nine pilot test events – went ahead with no testing of attendees as well as continued social distancing and mask wearing.

So, they are neither creating true event conditions nor are they providing data that would allow the later night time economy in Wales – which is currently facing ruin – to re-open properly.

And any hopes of the later night time economy reopening have now been entirely dashed by Mark Drakeford announcing on Friday that social distancing will be in place in Wales throughout the summer and most likely for the rest of the year. 

A test event was held at the Liberty Stadium, although no COVID testing took place on attendees according to campaign group Unite For The Night (Image: Visit Wales)

Nick Newman from Unite For The Night said: “We had heard from various supporters who were at the Swansea City play-off at Liberty Stadium on Saturday May 22 – which had been promoted as one of Welsh Government’s nine pilot test events – that there appeared to be no test measures in place at the game. Welsh Government stated on 11 May that a testing protocol and risk assessment would be tailored for each of its nine pilot test results, so we contacted Welsh Government to ask them what measures were in place at the game to make it a test event with data that can be analysed. 

“We have now received written confirmation from the Deputy Director for Event Wales that ‘given the risk mitigation measures that were proposed, the [Swansea City FC play off] event could proceed without the need for a testing protocol of attendees. This was due to consideration of the low incidence of COVID-19 in the Swansea area, the fact that it was largely an outdoor event, the mitigation measures including wearing of face masks in the ground and the limited single household ‘bubbles’ who were seated together in the stadium.’

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Mr Newman added: “We are astounded that the Welsh Government is pressing ahead with these so-called test events when they are very clearly nothing of the sort. If they wish to replicate the test events that went ahead in England, and that have yielded such positive data – showing that big events without masks are no riskier than shopping –  then they need to run these events properly. As it stands, they are clearly more time-wasting tactics with no strategy behind them. In the meantime, the night time industry – and nightclubs in particular – face ruin because they have been given no clear direction about how they can re-open.

“It beggars belief that this is how they are running what the Welsh Government itself claims are pilot events. If these events are purely being held as a piece of political theatre, I would like Mark Drakeford to explain to our 170 members how they are expected to deal with mounting debts, the heavy toll upon their emotional state and their mental health and how local economies across Wales are expected to stay afloat while the Welsh Government continues to stick its head in the sand on this matter. Nobody wants to be reckless or to put people in danger, but if a well-run set of pilot events that have gone ahead in England show that nightclubs can open their doors safely – yielding just 15 positive Covid tests from 58,000 attendees – then surely, they can do so here in Wales? “

people enjoying the concert
Nightclubs and live music venues are currently unable to open in Wales (Image: anna-m.w / Pexels.com)

Mr Newman continued: “While live music and theatre venues have been told they can get up and running again,  nightclub-based events cannot, particularly since Mark Drakeford has just announced that social distancing will remain in place throughout the summer and possibly into the rest of the year. And our members across the wider night time economy are concerned about the caveats that accompany this news, that: “Each venue will need a full risk assessment in line with Welsh Government hospitality and performing guidance.” and “Resuming activity can only be possible within the context of the COVID‑19 regulations that apply at the time.” We understand that this continues to mean that nightclubs and venues are still expected to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing until Welsh Government deems this is no longer necessary.

“Consequently, nightclubs and live and electronic music venues – as well as the other venues listed in the Welsh Government’s statement – will, in fact, be unable to open, as business will simply not be viable. The Welsh Government is well aware of this fact. It is also aware that it is using old and inappropriate data that is informing its reticence on allowing nightclubs to open. New data is available, and even fresher data could be collated at these Welsh test events – if they were run properly.

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“We have already heard from business across all sectors that the grants forthcoming from the Welsh Government are a fig-leaf for many and business are failing and will continue to fail as a result of a lack of Welsh Government support. Night time businesses are saying that the support grants being offered by the Welsh Government do not match the re-start grants being offered in England. If nightclubs face many more months of closed doors and mounting debts without tailored support, this will be another example of vital business in Wales being treated shoddily and suffering the consequences of a lack of decisiveness and competence on the part of the Welsh Government.

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“We have written to Mr Drakeford several times now but have had no response – this, along with his continued actions, leads us to think he doesn’t care about our sector. Do you have a problem with nightclubs, Mr Drakeford? We are now publicly asking him for a formal response to our letters which are simply asking when can we reopen without social distancing and mask wearing? And if we are being forced to close in the meantime, what meaningful financial support will we be offered? As Wales’ fifth biggest industry, employing thousands of people, we would really appreciate a response, Mr Drakeford.” 

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Unite For The Night has been formed by Swansea Hospitality Forum and Cardiff Licensees Forum to be a voice for the night time industry as the Welsh Government tackles the Coronavirus pandemic. It represents over 170 independent operators across both cities as well as big industry names like Marston’s, Stonegate Group and Wetherspoons.

It is estimated that by the time nightclubs can reopen, there will be between 40% and 50% fewer operating compared to pre-Covid figures. 

For more information, please visit www.uniteforthenight.com

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(Lead image: Mark Angelo / Pexels.com)


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