South Wales Evening Post
Welsh Government admits to no stats on nightclub cases
COVID passes were introduced in Wales in October and since then there have been questions about why some venues were being “singled out”.
The NHS passes had to be shown from October 11 to enter nightclubs, indoor non-seated events for more than 500 people, outdoor events for more than 4,000 people and any event with more than 10,000 people.
There was vocal concern from hospitality venues about their need and use. Nightclub owners in particular were concerned about how the rules applied to their venues compared to, say, a pub where music is played and people dance.
When he has been asked, the First Minister has said the use of the passes was “not to penalise any business, it’s to give that business an extra defence to allow it to continue to operate”.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request was sent to the Welsh Government asking for “any and all data that Welsh Government have used to develop the restrictions announced on December 16-17, 2021. This should include but not be limited to: a.) Statistical information regarding numbers of Covid cases developed from nightclubs; b.) Statistical information surrounding rates of transmission from businesses to be impacted by the one-way system rule; c.) Minutes of the meeting held on December 16 by Welsh Government regarding the restrictions”.
The response to the first two questions was: “This information is not available. There is no guarantee about where someone caught Covid19, therefore there is no data on cases caught in specific locations.”
Restrictions imposed across Wales in December saw nightclubs close and a ban on more than six people gathering in pubs. Publican Jon Bassett thinks the “unbelievable” Freedom of Information response shows a lack of justification for these measures.
“My Whatsapp group with other licensees is going crazy since this has gone into the public domain,” said Mr Bassett, who owns the Queens Vaults and Four Elms in Cardiff, the Golden Lion in Penarth and The Carpenters and the Pen & Wig in Newport.
“I would have thought there would have to be more evidence for them to do it. I just don’t get it. The restrictions are lifting on Friday and the Six Nations is coming up but for some businesses it might be too late. When you’re bankrupt, you’re bankrupt. I’m not talking about my business – our sales have been down 40% over the last two months but I think our business is pretty resilient.
“I think there is a lot of anger because it’s been a dreadful two months. The concern we’ve got now is if there’s another variant come December this year and it happens again. I just fear we’re in a loop.”
Mr Bassett thinks the Welsh Government’s more stringent restrictions could see Wales lose out to England on new venues.
“If you’re going to open a business, where do you invest?” he said.
“You’re not going to invest in the area which is more volatile on restrictions.”
At the time Covid passes were introduced, Rekom UK, which operates Fiction Swansea, Pryzm Cardiff and ATIK Wrexham, criticised their introduction, saying nightclubs were being “singled out”.
A spokeswoman said: “We are dismayed by this decision, which is not based on any sound scientific proof that nightclubs are causing a surge in Covid-19 cases.
“In fact, current evidence shows that case rates in Wales in the 20 to 29-yearold demographic are lower than in any other demographic of people below the age of 60 and case rates for the 17-24 age bracket has been in steep decline for the past two weeks.
“Once again, nightclubs have been singled out from the rest of hospitality in Wales as it’s deemed the least politically damaging, despite our venues
I would have thought there would have to be more evidence for them to do it. I just don’t get it. The restrictions are lifting on Friday and the Six Nations is coming up but for some businesses it might be too late. When you’re bankrupt, you’re bankrupt Publican Jon Bassett
We are dismayed by this decision, which is not based on any sound scientific proof that nightclubs are causing a surge in Covid-19 cases Rekom UK spokeswoman
being in an extremely fragile state of recovery and many hundreds of jobs at risk across the sector.”
A number of questions have been asked regarding proof as to why the passes were needed. The Welsh Government’s opposition in the Senedd, the Conservative group, has repeatedly asked for the use of the passes to be withdrawn.
When it emerged legal action was being taken by campaign group Big Brother Watch, the party’s spokesman on health, Russell George MS, said: “Vaccine passports are coercive, ineffective, costly to business and continue to have no evidence base. We must not forget that they are not a route out of restrictions, they are a restriction.”
Another FOI recently published on the Welsh Government website asked how many people were stopped for Covid pass checks during the autumn internationals. There were also questions about how many people were refused entry because they did not have or refused to get a pass, and for all correspondence between the Welsh Government and Welsh Rugby Union about the enforcement of the passes. It was decided that those questions did not have to be answered because publishing the information was commercially sensitive.
The Welsh Government responded: “The bulk of the information captured by this request is being released to you and into the public domain. Nevertheless, some information would be likely to cause significant losses to the WRU, and it is not in the public interest that organisations should suffer commercial loss merely because they have agreed to work with Welsh Government to present sporting fixtures in a manner that is safe and responsible in a time of global pandemic.
“As the matter of the request was particularly about the Covid passes, we also do not believe that there is an overriding public interest in providing commercial information that is incidental to the Covid pass operations, but that reveals more general operational information, where the operational information would be expected to cause an organisation commercial loss. This information is therefore being withheld.”
Last week, First Minister Mark Drakeford said Covid passes were a “necessary and important part of our defence”. He said their use will be reviewed at the next rule review on February 10.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Throughout the pandemic our approach has been informed by the latest available scientific and medical advice. “The action we took in the run-up to Christmas, when the Delta variant was still the dominant variant, and immediately afterwards as Omicron cases increased, was designed to keep us safe and protect us. We introduced proportionate measures to protect people’s lives and livelihoods.”