Full crowds for Wales' Six Nations campaign
NEWS: Six Nations matches in Wales will be able to go ahead after the Welsh government announced on Friday it was easing coronavirus restrictions in the coming weeks.
All professional sporting events in the country have been held behind closed doors since December 26 due to the rise of Covid-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant.
The tough “alert level 2” measures required mask-wearing in all indoor public places and imposed limits on gatherings while nightclubs were forced to shut.
But current data show falling case numbers and a decline in the number of patients in critical care beds.
The move to alert level zero is expected to be phased, with restrictions on outdoor activities being removed first.
From Saturday, the number of people who can be present at outdoor events will rise from 50 to 500 and from January 21 there will be no limits.
Spectators will be able to return to outdoor sporting events, including Six Nations rugby matches, though Covid passes will be required.
Champions Wales are due to host Scotland on February 12, France on March 11 and Italy a week later.
Now the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) are hoping to sell as many tickets as possible at their 74 000 capacity Principality Stadium headquarters as they look to avoid playing Six Nations matches behind closed doors – a move that cost them an estimated £13.5 million ($18.4 million, 16.2 million euros) last season.
“We’re delighted that full crowds can return for the Six Nations in Wales,” said WRU chief executive Steve Phillips.
#⃣NEWS: @Federugby‘s most capped player Sergio Parisse will miss their two opening matches of this year’s @SixNationsRugby as he recovers from a wrist issue#Rugby 🏉#RugbyUnion🌐
— rugby365.com (@rugby365com) January 14, 2022
‘Race against time’
He added: “We are now in a race against time to achieve what would usually come naturally; this is especially the case for the match against Scotland given its proximity.”
Pressure had been mounting from sports organisations and fans, with many fearing the games would have to be held across the border in England.
The Welsh government said if the downward trend in virus cases continued then alert level zero would apply to all indoor activities from January 28.
Nightclubs would be able to reopen and working from home would no longer be a legal requirement.
“The actions we have taken together have helped us to weather the Omicron storm,” said First Minister Mark Drakeford. “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 two restrictions, starting with the outdoor measures.”
Welsh clubs Cardiff, Newport and Swansea have all played their English Football League home games behind closed doors while English rivals were allowed to host supporters.
Swansea said planning had started to ensure the return of fans for their next Championship home fixture against Preston on January 22.