THE nightclub industry has condemned the Welsh Government's decision to close venues last winter over concerns about the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

Clubs in Wales had to shut down in December when Wales moved to Alert Level Two in anticipation of rising Covid cases, caused by Omicron.

Clubs in England did not have to close - leading to starkly different scenes in Welsh and English city centres when revellers wanted to celebrate New Year's Eve.

Bristol was packed with party-goers on December 31, while in Newport the high street was nearly deserted. The situation was similar in other border towns. 

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) asked the Welsh Government to provide any evidence of clubs being Covid "spreader events" that informed the decision to close clubs down last December.

The Welsh Government, according to the response sent to the NTIA, was unable to provide such evidence.

"It is not possible to establish exactly where someone caught Covid-19, therefore it is not possible to provide the number of cases that were caught in specific venues," reads the response. "The Welsh Government does not hold any information on spreader events."

NTIA boss Michael Kill said the government's response shows "there is no evidence held by the Welsh Government that identifies nightclubs or late night economy businesses as being any greater risk than other settings across the region".

Mr Kill said hospitality and the night-time economy had "been at the sharpest end" of the pandemic response in Wales and had "suffered immeasurably over the last two years".

He has called on the government to publish an interim report "analysing the true impact of the lockdown strategy".

Earlier today (Thursday April 14), First Minister Mark Drakeford appeared on BBC Radio Wales, where he was asked about the NTIA's findings and whether it was fair to close clubs for several weeks during the Omicron wave.

He said: "There’s no doubt at all across the world those sorts of venues have been associated with super spreader events.

"The evidence from the Sage committee said the transmission of the virus was strongly associated with the proximity and duration of contact in indoor environments, especially where it’s the nature of the business that people are up close and personal.

"So I don’t think there’s any doubt at all that those were high risk venues, and at the height of the pandemic they were closed – not just in Wales but in other parts of the United Kingdom and across the world as well."

But Peter Marks, the boss of nightclub firm Rekom UK, suggested clubs had been singled out for restrictions while other businesses got off more lightly.

“In keeping with most governments, the Welsh Government had chosen to put the worst restrictions on the late night economy with no evidence whatsoever that their businesses were any worse than any other indoor settings," he said.

"The right way to have approached this would have been to do a risk assessment on every property and consider things such as air changes every hour, cleaning protocols, health and safety policies and training together with a consideration of capacity rather than just close a sector because of assumed customer behaviour.

"We were left in a position where pubs with no ventilation save the odd window were deemed fine whereas nightclubs with 15 air changes an hour or more were not."

Mr Marks called for changes to government policy should there ever be the possibility of future Covid restrictions.

"Mark Drakeford even went on record around Christmas to say that because London had rising rates with omicron it would only be a matter of time before it hit Wales, as the pattern was that the country was always two weeks behind London in infections," he said. "This was blatantly not true at the time and it was proved  not to be the case.

"If ever we were to face restrictions again we should be restricted on a risk assessed basis not a political one more interested in media spin than the facts."

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