Irish quarantine exemptions for jockeys extended to all Group or Graded races
Irish quarantine exemptions for riders competing in Group 1 or Grade 1 races have been extended to include those riding in any Group or Graded race, meaning jockeys can travel without self-isolating when they return to Ireland.
A change in previous regulations for elite athletes just before Longines Irish Champions Weekend allowed riders to travel to and from Ireland without quarantining for top-level races only, provided they abided by agreed protocols.
Riders are subject to a risk assessment each time they intend to compete abroad and undergo three Covid-19 tests – once before travelling and twice on their return.
They must also restrict themselves to riding out in one yard, as well as entering the parade ring after all other jockeys and keeping their distance from them in the changing areas.
"It's positive news," said Irish Jockeys Association secretary Andrew Coonan. "Flat riders travelling abroad will be helped by this but principally at the moment it will impact jumps riders.
"In any event, they have limited opportunities and those opportunities were cut through Covid, so anything that will assist them to help make up some of the deficit is positive and welcomed."
The development comes as a boost to riders aiming to ride in high-quality races that are not considered Group or Grade 1s, including the majority of handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival.
Leading rider Danny Mullins said: "It's a positive move that's been handled very well by the IHRB and Dr Jennifer Pugh. Every little is a help and hopefully by the time Cheltenham comes around there might be more of an easing in restrictions again."
Ireland's Tanaiste Leo Varadkar warned last week the country could require a third lockdown in the new year should Covid-19 cases rises after the Christmas period, and a return to the most severe degree of restrictions, Level 5, may prompt a review of the new rules for riders.
"If we were to head back into a lockdown scenario, and one dreads that it might happen possibly post-Christmas, of course it would have to be reviewed at that stage," said Coonan.
"What we've learned from Covid is that nothing is forever and I think it would be foolish to think that this is there regardless of what the outcome is.
"I would fully expect that if we got back into a situation of Level 5 again, or if the UK's scenario were to significantly deteriorate, we would look to review that."
International travel restrictions in Ireland are now in line with the new EU 'traffic lights' approach, in which countries are categorised as green, orange, red or grey depending on their rates of infection.
The new system, which came into effect on Monday, allows passengers from red regions to move freely after five days of quarantining once they provide a negative Covid-19 test.
The move away from the previous mandatory 14-day quarantine period suggests international runners and connections could participate in any race in Ireland, provided they follow national regulations on testing and self-isolation.
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