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'No evidence at all!' Parkrun row erupts in Wales as Covid rules force event to be axed

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Parkrun Chief Operating Officer, Tom Williams, branded the decision to cancel Parkrun in Wales “painful and disappointing”, adding it was the only decision the company had due to the limit on outdoor gatherings. Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford issued new rules from December 26 preventing groups of more than 50 from meeting in an outdoor setting which has forced some events to be cancelled. Mr Williams was challenged on the decision to halt Parkrun and was asked whether a ticketing system could be used but he explained the complexities behind an event like Parkrun which meant it had no choice but to stop.

Appearing on BBC Breakfast, Mr Williams was asked for his verdict of the event’s cancellation said it was the only option facing his company.

But when asked whether a ticket system could be used to limit those in attendance, Mr Williams said systems like those have been considered but many people simply turn up on the day meaning it would be very difficult to police.

Mr Williams added: “It is really disappointing and to the best of our knowledge [the restrictions are] not based on any evidence at all.

“So, you know, the important thing with things like Parkrun and many other activities like it is that they are public health initiatives, they make people healthier and happier, they’ve never been more needed than they are now.

“And so the decision to close them should always be based on the evidence and it should always be based on on the science and public health and whether the benefits of closing Parkrun or events like Parkrun outweigh the risks of them operating.

“And we simply don’t think that’s the case.

“You know, we think it’s very clear that the benefits of opening things like Parkrun are significant to public health and the risks of opening things like Parkrun with regards Covid transmission are minimal if any at all.”

Mr Williams challenged the idea that Parkrun could be a superspreader event and said the structure of the event could be done in a way that limits contact.

He explained not only would an outdoor setting be less dangerous than an indoor one but stewards could make sure there were stagnated runners.

The decision from the Welsh Government garnered much criticisms from MPs, including from Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

He tweeted: “Parkrun has helped so many people improve their health across the UK. I can’t see how restricting outdoor exercise in this way is justified or proportionate.”

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Parkruns in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland have been going on as normal as the rules allow bigger gatherings.

The company said in a statement: “We know that some Welsh Parkrun events regularly have fewer than 50 people attending. However, it would take a very small influx (at what is typically a very busy time of year) for them to exceed the limit.

“We understand that this news will be incredibly disappointing to many Welsh Parkrunners, and we’d like to reassure you all that we will do everything we can to bring Parkrun events back across Wales as soon as these restrictions are lifted.”

Wales, along with Northern Ireland and Scotland, introduced further restrictions over the New Year to try and curb the spread of Covid.

The country already follows the rule of six and table service has been reintroduced for hospitality venues.

Covid certification has also been in place for several weeks for certain venues.



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