Welsh Athletics chief executive James Williams has backed calls for the Welsh government to reconsider Covid-19 restrictions, which have led to Parkrun cancelling events in Wales.

Under the Welsh government’s latest pandemic control measures large events are restricted, with exceptions for smaller sports events where up to 50 spectators can gather, and exceptions for events involving children.

Parkrun, which organises 5km runs every Saturday morning throughout the UK, has cancelled all of its events in Wales from 1 January onwards, except for junior Parkruns which are not affected by the new rules.

In a joint statement with Tom Williams, parkrun’s chief operating officer, he urged the First Minister “to review his control plan and remove the prohibitive restrictions.”

It read: “Welsh Athletics and parkrun are disappointed and concerned by the introduction of prohibitive restrictions that will once again significantly impact on the ability for people to engage with walking, running, and volunteering activities across Wales.

“The benefits of walking, running, and volunteering for physical and mental health and wellbeing are well documented, and have been championed by many within the Senedd.

“It is also widely accepted, and supported by the evidence, that not only do outdoor environments present incredibly low risk of virus transmission, but increasing physical activity and health is one of the most important tools for overcoming COVID-19.

“Throughout the last 18 months, running in particular has become a way for many thousands of people to deal with the personal challenges that COVID has posed to them.

“This has been achieved through a network of opportunities across all parts of Wales – including formal clubs, informal groups, running events and weekly parkrun events.

“Together, these opportunities provide a support network for people from all backgrounds and abilities across Wales, and to take that away right when it is badly needed, should only be done if the evidence is clear.

“Unfortunately, not only does there appear to be no evidence that stopping events like ours is beneficial overall to public health, but we would argue the evidence suggests doing so does more harm than good.

“We also know, from many years of experience, that those in need of increased physical activity are most likely to take up opportunities early in the New year, and where they don’t it significantly reduces their likelihood of being active throughout the rest of the year. As such, we believe it is a matter of urgency that opportunities for people to walk, run, and volunteer across Wales are not limited over the coming weeks and months.

“We therefore call on the Welsh Government to work with us, look closely at the evidence associated with outdoor physical activity events, and agree a way forward such that we can help improve the health of people.

“It is very clear to us that the public health benefits of outdoor physical activity events far outweigh the public health risks, and we therefore urge the First Minister to review his control plan and remove the prohibitive restrictions on events such as ours."