Rapid Covid-19 testing pilot begins for on-course participants from Monday

Racecourse attendees, including jockeys, valets and officials will be offered routine pre-raceday Covid-19 testing as part of an industry pilot starting on Monday.

The aim of the four-week pilot, funded by the Horserace Betting Levy Board, is to reduce the risk of on-course transmission and to help further safeguard the industry against new variants of the virus as lockdown restrictions are eased.

The lateral flow tests, which are free of charge, can be used at home in advance of the raceday and can provide a result within 15 to 30 minutes.

Dr Jerry Hill, the BHA’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.

"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."

Those affected by the pilot will be contacted directly and asked to sign up for the service delivered online by testing provider Qured. 

Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) chief executive, Paul Struthers, 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."

Any jockey or valet required to self isolate due to a positive test will be able to access financial support to cover loss of earnings under a scheme funded by The Racing Foundation administered by the PJA.

Alan Delmonte, Levy Board chief executive, added: "Since racing fixtures resumed in June 2020, the Levy Board has contributed over £2m in additional regulatory grants to assist the sport in staging racing safely and in accordance with good practice or regulatory requirements. The funding towards the pilot project is a further example of this."