Horse racing: Racing fans facing double-jab ruling

Horse racing: Racing fans facing double-jab ruling

Racing fans will need to be double vaccinated to attend the track from tomorrow but industry participants have been given six weeks leeway to reach the same level.

With the traffic light system here from tomorrow, race meetings in all three codes will be classed as events, meaning customers will need to show their vaccine passes to attend.

All three codes, thoroughbreds, harness racing and greyhounds, have agreed on the same regulations but are working through the exact logistics, particularly for customers because many tracks have numerous entry points.

But the basic rule for the public is no vaccine pass, no entry.

That will include racehorse owners who are not licensed people who, for the purpose of entry, will be classed as customers.

But licence holders — trainers, jockeys, stablehands and greyhound handlers — as well as non-licensed more casual stable staff having been granted some leeway, if only until January 17.

From tomorrow, they will have to be able to prove they have had the first dose of the vaccine to attend races and trials and that will increase to being double vaccinated and with a vaccine pass by January 17.

As in most industries, there will be provisions for those who have medical exemptions that preclude them from getting the vaccine.

The adoption of the double vaccination for the public and single jab for raceday staff from tomorrow to January 17 covers the two equine codes. So effectively, from the middle of next month, all horse racing meetings in New Zealand will be closed to the unvaccinated.

“We want to make it clear to our customers that race meetings will be an event and therefore they will need to be double vaccinated to attend,” says New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing chief executive Bernard Saundry, in comments endorsed by the other code heads.

“But with the Government regulations for some workers changing last week, we want to give those people in the industry who haven’t had the vaccine yet the time to get both doses.

“If they want to work at the races and trials from this Friday they will need to prove they have had at least their first jab and from January 17 that will become both jabs and they will need the vaccine pass to confirm it.”

Those rules will be able to be enforced by security, Racing Integrity personnel such as stewards and club and racing code staff.

Saundry says he has fielded “four or five calls” from those who don’t believe they should need to be vaccinated to work in the industry or attend races but he says with race meetings classed as events there is no wriggle room.

Although the racing industry spans three codes and has a diverse mix of participants, it will be far more conditioned than many industries to the demand for vaccines as licence holders are used to operating under the Rules Of Racing.

Those rules have very broad powers inside the industry, including the ability to disqualify and suspend people, and therefore their livelihoods, far more easily than would be required in normal society and employment.

Industry participants have been exceptional at following Covid-19 requirements such as scanning, mask wearing and social distancing since Delta hit New Zealand in August which is a key reason the three codes were able to continue to race at the old level 3.

The new strict rules

From tomorrow only those who are double vaccinated will be allowed to attend any New Zealand race meeting as a member of the public or customer.

Staff who work inside the industry will have to prove they have had one jab to work but being double vaccinated will be mandatory from January 17.

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