Coronavirus: Club treasurer's anger over Doncaster trip claim

  • Published
Media caption,

Donna Clifton's partner went on the trip and returned with Covid-19

A club treasurer says his venue has been "dragged through the mud" after Wales' health minister linked a coronavirus cluster with a Doncaster trip some of his members went on.

Phillip Brown said the Lindsay Cons Club had been "virtually blamed" for the spread in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

His club had to close days before the trip because of Covid-19 fears - with a number of people later becoming sick.

Vaughan Gething mentioned the trip when he announced the area's lockdown.

During a televised Welsh Government press conference on Wednesday, he gave examples of clusters of coronavirus cases in Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT), including one associated "with a club outing to the Doncaster races, which stopped off at a series of pubs on the way".

The health minister did not name the club involved, although this later emerged, and Mr Brown said it had been an "absolute disgrace" how Mr Gething had dealt with the situation.

The minister also faced criticism from political rivals after he said the group travelled to Doncaster races - when it later emerged they did not attend the actual racecourse.

What happened on the trip?

Image caption,
A number of club members have become ill

Mr Brown, treasurer of the club in Abercynon, said the bus trip itself was not run by the venue and was organised by someone who was not a member.

He said four or five of his members went and stayed in Doncaster for two nights, before returning on Sunday.

It was an annual journey to the races, but on this occasion the group did not attend the racecourse itself.

He said he thought they probably did go to some pubs in Doncaster, but did not stop at any on the way, as the minister said.

The club itself had shut after a member of bar staff had developed symptoms last Wednesday.

It was confirmed a club member had Covid-19 on Thursday, and a total of 15-20 members and staff members have become sick since.

Mr Brown said he had been in touch with Rhondda Cynon Taf council and Public Health Wales with details of who had been in the club at the weekend.

He said how Mr Gething had handled the matter was an "absolute disgrace".

"They have dragged our club through the mud, virtually blaming us for a situation in Rhondda Cynon Taf and locking down because they reckon we are responsible," he said.

"We are not responsible. We've done every measure possibly to help Public Health Wales and the Welsh Government."

'They didn't stop off at pubs on the way'

Donna Clifton, whose partner was on the trip, said the group did not stop off at any pubs on the way as the health minister claimed.

"[It was] what normally happens on the trip: they had a bet, they had a pint, same as what happens every year, nothing was done any different," she said.

Ms Clifton, whose partner returned from the trip with Covid-19, said: "They go straight to Doncaster, into a pub, into a hotel, back on the Sunday."

What did Mr Gething say?

Media caption,

Wales lockdown: What did minister say about Doncaster?

After his press conference, Mr Gething repeated the anecdote about the club trip during an interview with BBC Wales.

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 no bookings from south Wales. The racecourse had been ordered to stop spectators attending after Wednesday's opening day.

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."

What have opposition politicians said?

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Doncaster Racecourse was wrongly linked to the cluster

Welsh Conservative health spokesman Andrew RT Davies called for an apology and said the Doncaster episode showed "staggering incompetence" from the Welsh Government.

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: "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 spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth said: "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 why the health minister did not say at the press conference that the trip did not go into the racecourse.

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."

On Thursday, Public Health Wales reported three deaths of people with coronavirus, the first recorded in the country since August 31.

A lockdown came into force in Rhondda Cynon Taf at 18:00 BST on Thursday.