Serious health and wellbeing concerns for Cardiff Rugby team members stuck in South Africa

Cardiff Rugby were supposed to leave South Africa on Sunday but were forced to stay in isolation after two positive Covid cases were identified in the group. Credit: Cardiff Rugby

A Cardiff Rugby representative has told ITV Wales News that there are serious mental health and wellbeing concerns amongst the group, stuck isolating in South Africa.

The rugby team were unable to leave the country as planned last Sunday due to two of them testing positive for coronavirus. One of those cases is suspected to be of the new Omicron variant.

The rest of the group underwent another round of testing and all received negative PCR test results on Monday. They are all isolating in the team hotel in South Africa but there are concerns about how this is affecting their mental health, with reports of some of the group having panic attacks.

Cardiff Rugby said they have a plane secured and a hotel in Cardiff that have agreed to take them in to quarantine but say Welsh Government have told them not to use these and warned there will be serious consequences if they travel back to Wales.

Under Welsh law, it is illegal for anyone who has been in a red list country in the last ten days to enter Wales directly. Welsh Government say this is why there are no safe quarantine facilities in Cardiff or Wales - meaning the hotel Cardiff Rugby have lined up would not be suitable.

South Africa was added to the UK's red travel list on November 26.

Cardiff Rugby had travelled to compete in the United Rugby Championship in South Africa but their games were postponed after cases of the new variant - Omicron - were identified in the country.

Two of their team tested positive for Covid on Saturday evening, a day before they were supposed to fly out of Cape Town.

While the two people who tested positive are isolating in a separate hotel, the rest of the group are all quarantining separately at the team hotel.

On Monday, Cardiff Rugby confirmed that the people still at the team hotel had all returned negative Covid test results and they are continuing to "work with all relevant authorities to secure [their] repatriation back to Wales".

Gafyn Cooper, the Operations Manager for Cardiff Rugby, said: "The priority is to keep everyone safe and to get us back home as quickly as possible... there's a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes from a range of people and a range of organisations."

However a Cardiff Rugby spokesperson told ITV Wales News on Tuesday that there are now serious concerns over the mental health of team members and Welsh Government will not approve their plan to travel back to Wales.

This is because Welsh law prevents the team for travelling directly back to Cardiff and quarantining there. Cardiff Airport is not a designated port of entry, meaning travellers coming from a red list country like South Africa cannot legally enter the UK through Cardiff Airport.

There are also no official quarantine hotels in Cardiff or Wales and Welsh Government guidance says: "It is advised that travellers should isolate as close to the point of arrival as possible. As most international travel to Wales is via English ports, there is clear rationale for locating quarantine hotels near these ports."

The Welsh Conservatives said Welsh Government ministers need to "pull out all the stops" to get the Cardiff Rugby team back in Wales.

Shadow Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Tom Giffard MS, said: “I find the reports that Labour ministers are threatening Cardiff Rugby and just turning their back on them very wrong.

“Wales has an airport, and the WRU training facility at the Vale was rapidly turned into a field hospital earlier in the pandemic, so I would hope some beds could be put up pretty quick.

“Labour ministers must do all they can to work with the relevant authorities and ensure Cardiff can return home as soon as is practically possible.”

Cardiff Rugby are now awaiting another round of testing and hope to fly back those who test negative to London on Thursday. They will then isolate in a London hotel.

Welsh team Scarlets are also isolating in Northern Ireland after leaving South Africa during on Monday.

The Heineken Champions Cup is due to kick off on December 10, with Cardiff hosting European champions Toulouse the following day, and Munster visiting Wasps 24 hours later.

  • Scarlets Executive Chairman, Simon Muderack, says his team are quickly 'de-conditioning' in isolation in Ireland