SO far, so good. That’s the message from the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board as racing continues to carefully navigate its way through the pandemic.
While the surge in Covid-19 cases has led to the cancellation of many sporting and social events over the holidays, racing has been largely unaffected, with the exception of Leopardstown making a late decision to race behind closed doors due to staff shortages caused by the virus.
Racecourses are still allowed to admit up to 5,000 people – or 50% of a venue’s capacity - for a fixture. Indoor facilities are open to those with proof of vaccination or proof of recovery.
IHRB senior medical officer Dr Jennifer Pugh said: “Overall, we’re doing okay, albeit an uneasy time for everyone until we learn more about the Omicron variant and get through this current wave of infections.”
Dr Pugh said there have been some positive tests returned by jockeys but this has not had a knock-on effect as the riders are sufficiently spaced out at the races. “Weighrooms have been fully closed again since Christmas and jockeys are back in larger overflow areas, only entering the weighroom to weigh out and in.
“Jockeys have been testing themselves and self-reporting symptoms to me and unsurprisingly we have had some cases. Our key is ensuring, to the best of our ability, that there is no onward transmission, hence keeping the jockeys apart at the races, and everyone’s behaviour on the racecourse is key.”
Niall Cronin, IHRB communication manager, said: “We don’t believe racing poses a significant risk of spreading the virus. We have always had strict protocols in place at the tracks and the weighrooms, which were never fully back in operation, were closed again pre-Christmas. The only change over Christmas was that we had to work closely with those racecourses which were expecting large crowds to ensure there was adequate space reserved for jockeys and officials. We also asked racecourses to turn off television screens in places where crowds might gather. I’m happy to say we had full cooperation.”