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RV: Positive test won't necessarily shutdown racing

Racing Victoria chief executive Giles Thompson said the industry won't necessarily shut down on the back of one potential COVID-19 positive test.
Racing Victoria chief executive Giles Thompson said the industry won't necessarily shut down completely in the event that a participant returns a positive COVID-19 test.

Leading Melbourne jockey Mark Zahra was on Thursday confirmed as the racing participant waiting on a Coronavirus test result, having travelled on a commercial flight (prior to raised restrictions) with a confirmed COVID-19 case earlier in March.

READ: NSW hoops test negative to COVID-19

The flow-on effect of the potential contamination led to five cancelled meetings in Australia on Thursday, given jockey and participant crossover.

Speaking on RSN 927 on Thursday morning, Thompson said they were hopeful of a negative result from the test, but also suggested a positive result wouldn't necessarily lead to a mass shutdown of racing.

"The simple answer is it depends. It depends on the results of the contact tracing. In theory, if there are enough people that haven't been exposed to Mark in that period of time, in theory we can (continue)," Thompson said.

"[Then it's a matter of] who's left standing, if you like, and those who've been exposed to Mark [would require self-isolation], but it's not necessarily over, but it'll take some work to establish how to continue racing."

Thompson clarified that at this stage, people who have come into contact with Zahra would not be tested as per regulations at this stage.

"Not to my knowledge, because that's not what the testing regime provides at the moment," he said.

Thompson explained how the cards fell on Wednesday.

"Early to mid-afternoon yesterday, news came through about Mark's potential exposure," he said, with Zahra found to be on the same flight as a positive COVID-19 case on March 12.

"And as soon as that comes through, we have these various processes, they go fully into action.

"That is, him getting tested, as he was yesterday afternoon, then you start contact tracing.

"That's when the other dominoes fell around the other states.

"As soon as we could we abandoned the Sandown meeting, it took a reality check on how long the test would take to get back, so we abandoned today's meetings.

"One of the concerns is about supporting Mark, and also supporting those who have come into contact with him.

"The centre of all of this is a health issue, and we have to bear that in mind with whatever we're doing."

Now it's a case of the industry playing the waiting game for a test result, to determine if racing can continue from Friday onwards.

READ: Racing on hold pending COVID-19 tests

Racing Victoria moved to cancel Thursday's meetings at Kilmore and Pakenham as a precaution, as well as cutting short Wednesday's Sandown meeting after race two when the news of a potential contamination came through.

"As far as where we are now, we're all waiting for a test [result] basically," Thompson explained.

"That's in the system, and the system is what it is - it's state-by-state, it's important to understand that.

"My understanding with the current system in Victoria is the tests go to a central testing system, you have to wait for the main central system.

"We're hopeful for an answer today, it can't be guaranteed, we're at the mercy of the system and we're in the queue like everyone else."

He added: "Those who came into close contact with him [Zahra] were reached out to by the chief medical officer of the VJA and were instructed to self-isolate.

"In fact, we have asked as of last night all licensed flat jockeys to refrain from attending trackwork and to self-isolate until otherwise advised.

"One of the reasons for that is caution, but we're hoping it's a short-term issue, as we're hoping we can get a negative test back today and get back to some normality - normality being the resumption of racing."

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