Coronavirus: Apology call over Doncaster races ‘shambles’

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionWales lockdown: What did minister say about Doncaster?

There are calls for an apology after it emerged a Covid-19 cluster associated by Wales’ health minister with a trip to a racecourse did not go there.

Vaughan Gething said a cluster was associated with a trip to Doncaster races by people in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Later on Wednesday, the Welsh Government then said the trip – by a social club – did not go to the racecourse itself.

Contact tracers continue to trace contacts from the cluster, it added.

Welsh Conservative health spokesman Andrew RT Davies said the episode was “shambolic” and showed “staggering incompetence” from the Welsh Government.

It comes days after it emerged First Minister Mark Drakeford found out 11 days after Mr Gething about a data breach involving everyone in Wales who tested positive for coronavirus between 27 February and 30 August.

Image copyright
Getty Images

What happened?

On Wednesday, Mr Gething used a televised Welsh Government press conference to announce a lockdown in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

He gave examples of clusters of coronavirus cases in the borough, including one associated “with a club outing to the Doncaster races, which stopped off at a series of pubs on the way”.

The anecdote was repeated in an interview with BBC Wales, where he said the club had “organised a large coach to Doncaster races stopping off in pubs”.

But Doncaster Racecourse later issued a statement saying it had not been contacted by the NHS or Welsh Government.

The venue, which had held a test event last Wednesday, said it had no bookings from south Wales.

After the British Horseracing Authority sought further clarification, the Welsh Government issued a tweet saying: “We understand that though the original intention of the party was to travel to the Doncaster Racecourse, the party did not enter the racecourse as originally planned.”

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Doncaster held a test event last Wednesday – but the group from south Wales did not go

Mr Davies said the “false allegation” regarding the racecourse was “yet another example of staggering incompetence from the health minister and the Welsh Labour Government”.

Calling the turn of events “shambolic”, he added: “Only on Tuesday, Vaughan Gething was forced to admit he had sat on a serious data breach involving 18,000 Welsh patients for two weeks and hadn’t bothered to inform his boss, Mark Drakeford.

“Last night, we learn his comments to the Senedd yesterday regarding the coronavirus outbreak in the Rhondda were horribly wrong.

“In a public health crisis it’s vital the information government and ministers provide to the people of Wales is accurate, and as such the record must be corrected and a clarification and apology provided immediately by the Welsh Labour Government.”

Plaid Cymru health minister Rhun ap Iorwerth said: “Incorrect information being shared can create real anxiety on one hand or even endanger people’s health on the other.

“In this case, the minister shared what appeared to be very precise information, which turns out not to be true at all.

“How did that happen? Any group travelling from place to place on a drinking session is irresponsible at this time, clearly, but government must get its facts right.”

What has the Welsh Government said?

BBC Wales asked the Welsh Government for an explanation of the movements of the Doncaster trip, whether the pubs attended were in England, and whether it had spoken to agencies over the border in England about the cluster.

We also asked why the health minister did not say at the press conference that they did not go into the racecourse itself.

In response, a spokesman said: “The Doncaster group cluster is one of a number of clusters in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area.

“Contact tracing teams are continuing to trace contacts from this cluster.”

BBC News