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'I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!' may be fuelling Covid-19 spread through cockroaches, Wales' First Minister suggests

'I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!' might be fuelling the spread of Covid-19 through cockroaches, Wales' First Minister has suggested, as he backs a police probe of the programme.

The ITV show has been criticised for potentially breaching the Wildlife and Countryside Act if it failed to get the licence required to release non-native insects into the countryside.

Thousands of cockroaches were poured over contestants during challenges last week at Gwrych Castle in North Wales, where the show is being held this year, prompting concerns they may damage wildlife or transmit Covid-19 to humans.

Mark Drakeford, Wales' First Minister, has now waded into the controversy, claiming officers should take complaints about this seriously.

"We worked carefully with the production company to make sure that all the rules are being observed," he said.

"If there has been some infringement then it's right that they are investigated. We would be concerned about non-native species being released.

"We wouldn't want to see non-native species being released here in Wales because of the risks that that could pose to the health of other wildlife but potentially, as in the Danish situation, the risk to human health as well."

Police are reportedly investigating the programme over its use of bugs - including cockroaches, maggots, spiders and worms - on the 250-acre Welsh estate.

To release a non-native species into the wild, a licence is needed from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. NRW's chief executive, Clare Pillman, said it had not received any licence applications from ITV "in relation to releasing non-natives as part of their production of I'm A Celebrity".

North Wales Police said: “North Wales Police and Natural Resources Wales have received information regarding the potential release of non-native species into ‘non studio’ areas, and we have given suitable advice to the production team regarding their set management and biosecurity.” 

ITV has defended its use of bugs, saying all the insects used during the programme are "non-invasive species".

The programme's spokesman added: "They are only ever released in a contained area and collected immediately after filming. The bugs are UK-bred and are commercially purchased in the UK for birds and exotic animal feed for pets and zookeepers in normal circumstances.

"Our insects have been donated to local wildlife sanctuaries, trusts and zoos for their exotic animal and bird feed after filming."

Celebrities including athlete Sir Mo Farah, TV presenter Vernon Kay and journalist Victoria Derbyshire are among the famous faces taking part in this series of the programme.

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