Almost everywhere you turn in Welsh regional rugby the sporting facilities are being used in the fight against coronavirus.
While the Principality Stadium, Parc y Scarlets, Cardiff Arms Park, the Ospreys’ training venue at Llandarcy and the WRU National centre of excellence have all been turned into field hospitals or supporting areas, Rodney Parade is playing a vital role in the expanded testing programme for key workers.
This week, as the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board extended their testing facility to include critical workers outside the NHS, the home of rugby in Newport for the past 143 years has become vital in the battle against Covid-19.
One of the network of testing sites set-up around Wales and the UK, The Dragons’ home venue is operating on an appointment-only basis for NHS staff and other key workers, such as social care staff in local authorities, police and fire and rescue services.
Thousands more swab tests – which are used to identify if you currently have the virus – are being carried out there, permitting those who test negative for coronavirus to return to work as soon as possible. Those who test positive are then able to self-isolate and recover.
“We are increasing our testing capacity for coronavirus to protect the vulnerable, to support our partners and ultimately save lives,” said Judith Paget, chief executive at the health board.
“We aim to end the uncertainty of whether the critical workers that are needed on the front line need to stay at home, meaning those who test negative will be able to return to work.
“We are proud to be working closely with our partners to roll out additional capacity to where it is needed. We extend a special thanks to the team at Rodney Parade who have gone above and beyond to accommodate everything that we need in these challenging times.”
The last rugby match played at Rodney Parade was on 6 March, when Benetton Treviso ran out 37-25 victors’ in the Guinness Pro 14, and this weekend the Dragons should have been welcoming the reigning champions, Leinster, to their home ground for one of the biggest games of the season.
But that was all before rugby was suspended due to the current pandemic and Mark Jones, managing director at Dragons Rugby, is just delighted the club have been able to play a crictical role in supporting the NHS.
“The health service and care workers are doing an incredible job in such difficult circumstances, so we are more than happy to assist by lending our site and providing stewarding and security teams to support the NHS in its crucial work,” said Jones.
“Playing our part in the local community is at the heart of what we’re about at the Dragons. As well as the work that’s taking place at Rodney Parade, our team and players have been making essential deliveries to the vulnerable people in our community.”
Gwent Police is one of the organisations whose employees are now being tested at Rodney Parade and Glyn Fernquest, superintendent for Gwent, is full of praise for the way in which the Dragons have stepped in to help their community.
“This is a brilliant example of businesses turning their resources to creating and rolling out testing at scale to make sure that we have the teams that we need to support our communities,” said Fernquest.
“This facility will help our valued front-line services to fight the virus and continue their valued work.”