Racing launches rapid Covid testing

An industry pilot scheme to offer routine pre-raceday Covid-19 testing for racecourse attendees, including jockeys, valets and officials, will begin on Monday.

Funded by the Horserace Betting Levy Board, the pilot, which will last for an initial four-week period, will use regular and repeat Lateral Flow Testing (LFT) to detect positive Covid-19 cases well in advance of raceday, with the aim of reducing the risk of transmission on course and any potential disruption to the industry.

The pilot has been designed to support racing’s existing infection control measures. It will seek to establish whether routine testing of higher risk individuals can help further safeguard the industry and its people against new variants of the virus during the gradual easing of lockdown.

Dr Jerry Hill, the British Horseracing Authority’s chief medical adviser, said: “Advances in testing means that it can now be delivered in a more rapid, convenient and targeted way. Rapid lateral flow testing is being used routinely in local communities and other sectors to support the easing of lockdown restrictions, detect cases early and break chains of transmission.

“The pilot can help provide valuable insight into the practicalities of utilising rapid testing of asymptomatic individuals, to reduce the risk of transmission and protect our industry and its people from disruption as lockdown eases and we move towards the return of spectators.

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“By focusing testing on individuals working predominantly indoors and who have multiple contacts on a raceday, we can mitigate risk for those most likely to be exposed to the virus.

“On behalf of all involved in the pilot, I’d like to sincerely thank the Horserace Betting Levy Board for agreeing to fund the testing process, and The Racing Foundation for committing to a financial support package for any jockeys or valets who need to self-isolate, should they receive a positive result”.

Paul Struthers, chief executive of the Professional Jockeys Association, said: “The diligence of participants, including jockeys and valets, in following racing’s protocols has resulted in no known on-course transmission of Covid. This pilot can help establish whether pre-race testing can further improve safety on course, and we are supportive of it.

“On behalf of our members and valets, I would also to thank the Racing Foundation for once again offering support during this pandemic. Being able to offer financial support to jockeys and valets who take part in the pilot and test positive will at least provide some financial security during any period of self-isolation.”

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