Rugby referee stars in film championing Covid-19 vaccine

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Rugby referee “legend” Wayne Barnes has starred in a film championing the Covid-19 vaccination, which will be played to 80,000 fans ahead of an England game.

The new film will be premiered at Twickenham Stadium before the men’s England v Australia game on Saturday – one of the most anticipated matches of the Autumn Nations Series.

The English international rugby union referee plays a starring role in the film to remind sports fans to get the vaccine and to let fresh air in when socialising indoors, following the launch of the Government campaign “stop Covid-19 hanging around”.

The movie depicts rugby fans socialising at a pub as pundits give “real-time” commentary on their actions – specifically those that could spread Covid-19 indoors.

Refereeing the fans, Barnes’ whistle stops “play” as a supporter is pulled up for his “infraction” of attempting to close the window in the pub, before forgetting to wear a mask in the taxi on his way home.

The film informs viewers that opening a window when socialising indoors will help reduce the chances of catching Covid-19, reminding them of the importance of vaccination, testing regularly using lateral flow tests, and wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces.

Rugby referee and barrister Barnes said: “Covid-19 had a big impact on rugby, both at a community and elite level and I know everyone really did miss coming together to watch and play.

“We have all had to adapt but it’s been great to see sports fans being able to socialise and watch games across the country together. We had the first capacity crowd back at Twickenham for 609 days to see England play Tonga last weekend and are expecting the same again for England v Australia on Saturday.

“This couldn’t have been done without the collective effort of everyone remembering the Covid-19 safety measures. As people continue to come together during the Autumn Nations Series, I’d remind fans to be as safe as they can possibly be and follow the guidance.”

The film follows the launch of a Government campaign which is also urging those eligible to get their booster jab to top up their protection ahead of winter.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “It is fantastic to have rugby fans coming together to enjoy the Autumn series – whether that’s at Twickenham, the pub or watching at home.

“Having rugby referee legend Wayne Barnes championing the vital importance of getting your vaccine and the simple safety measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19 delivers a crucial message ahead of the winter months.

“I urge everyone who is eligible to get their booster vaccine as soon as possible to maintain the protection the vaccines give us all as we spend more time indoors with our loved ones this winter.”

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