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Carmarthen Athletic steps up to help Covid-19 vaccination programme

Carmarthen Athletic steps up to help Covid-19 vaccination programme

Carmarthen Athletic Rugby Club are stepping up to help with the Covid-19 vaccination programme

“We are desperate to get back to normal and playing rugby when it’s safe to do so, but at this time of crisis we had to step forward,” says Carmarthen Athletic chairman Wynne Jones.

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“We will continue to do whatever we can to help.”

The west Wales club has certainly played a huge part in developing future stars for Welsh rugby and now it is doing similar in helping the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

From January 18, Carmarthen Athletic’s clubhouse has been taken over as a venue for Covid-19 vaccinations.

Furnace House Surgery in the centre of Carmarthen contacted patients over 80 years of age inviting them to make an appointment to get their vaccinations.

The doses are now being administered at Carmarthen Athletic which offers more space for social distancing.

We are desperate to get back to normal and playing rugby when it’s safe to do so, but at this time of crisis we had to step forward

“The club has been predominantly closed since last March,” said Jones.

“I believe we’ve opened about eight times in total since then when we’ve been allowed to due to lockdown restrictions easing, but on the whole the activity has come to a standstill.

“Before the Covid-19 vaccines were approved there was a real rush to get the normal flu jabs done. The surgery asked us to help out there which of course we did.

“That was in November and we had about 2,500 people receive flu jabs over a three-week period. There was a rush to get people protected and the local surgery was not big enough to get everybody who needed the jab in the building in a socially distanced manner.

“We were delighted to help out and since the Covid-19 vaccine has come out, it has started all over again.

“We’ve had hundreds of people vaccinated at the club already.”

Jones has served Carmarthen Athletic for 50 years in a variety of roles.

The club is only 75 years old in total, but it has produced five British & Irish Lions in that time. Perhaps the most famous of those is Delme Thomas who captained Llanelli to victory over New Zealand in 1972.

More recently, Wales internationals Ken Owens, Ryan Elias, Rhys Priestland and Aled Davies have all come through the Carmarthen system. Hooker Owens was a Lion in 2017.

Rugby – like it has across Wales – has been put on the backburner at Carmarthen, but Jones is happy for the club to be of use at a difficult time.

Wales and British & Irish Lions hooker Ken Owens pictured aged 12 in his time with Carmarthen Athletic

We were delighted to help out and since the Covid-19 vaccine has come out we’ve had hundreds of people vaccinated at the club already

He added: “When the temporary field hospitals were put together including the ones at Principality Stadium and Parc y Scarlets, we offered our clubhouse and indoor training barn to Carmarthenshire County Council. The town’s leisure centre was also used.

“They replied saying they were covered, but we have always offered to help. This is what you do, especially in times of need. You have to be able to do what you can.

“It’s a time of a worldwide emergency. As much as we love rugby it becomes secondary to people’s health and the need to get everyone healthy. Anything we can do to help, we do because we’ve always been a family orientated club embedded in the community.”

The manager of Furnace House Surgery, Anne Jenkins, said: “We would like to thank Carmarthen Athletic Rugby Club who supported the surgery during the flu clinics last year and who agreed for us to use the venue for the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccines.

“We are contacting patients who are 80 and over during the next couple of weeks. We would kindly ask people to be patient as we are working hard to ensure they are seen as quickly as possible.

“Please do not phone the practice to make an appointment as staff at Furnace House are actively contacting patients either by phone or letter.

“The Covid-19 vaccination clinics will work on an appointment-only basis.”

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