Industry News

Ban on interstate staff located in NSW-Victoria border bubble to remain in place

The easing of coronavirus restrictions in Victoria, particularly in regional areas, will have no immediate bearing on horse movement protocols or the Racing NSW edict that staff from the southern state cannot work north of the border without undertaking quarantine.

NSW-Victoria border trainers have been the most affected by the stern response of chief executive Peter V’landys to the Covid-19 second wave in Victoria, firstly by stopping racehorses from entering NSW, as well as imposing a ban on Victorian-based staff from undertaking their duties if employed by a trainer north of the border, even if they were in a “travel bubble”.

The movement of horses from Victoria to NSW stables and racecourses, which had been banned since July 8, was once again permitted late last month, but under tight protocols, including a 48-hour quarantine period for the horses at a spelling farm, before entering a licensed premises.

Albury trainers Mitch Beer and Donna Scott have been harshly affected by the restrictions, with not only horses stranded in Victoria, but also staff who reside in neighbouring Wodonga.

Some of Beer’s stable staff, who lived on the Victorian side of the Murray River but within the border travel bubble, have been living in temporary accommodation in Albury in order to keep their jobs.

Moruya-based Natalie Jarvis was another country trainer known to have been impacted by the ban on horse movement.

Racing NSW chief steward Marc Van Gestel yesterday said that the state industry’s governing body would not be easing the ban on staff, despite Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews moving regional areas to step three of its Covid-19 recovery plan.

“In terms of personnel, we are taking advice from our biosecurity expert who provides us with updates as we go through to these matters,” Van Gestel told ANZ Bloodstock News. “The changes there (in Victoria) don’t really assist us all that greatly because the processes are with the border bubbles. 

“For instance, an (employee) who is based at Albury, that lives at Wangaratta or Wodonga, can go to Albury, and is then able to travel to Wagga or Canberra race meetings, those persons can come in contact with the normal population or, alternatively, if those persons remain at Albury, there is still the potential for some infection to cross over to staff members, and we’d be in the position where there’s the potential for it to have a (detrimental) impact on the industry.”

Van Gestel added: “At this point in time, we haven’t made any changes to our protocols, but we will continue to take our expert advice, and if there’s some risk assessments that say that there’s an acceptable risk, we might look to make changes. 

“It is encouraging with the Victorian numbers and they’re maintaining quite stable levels and the numbers are starting to come down at the same time, so they are all things we are considering.”

There were 41 cases of Covid-19 reported in Victoria yesterday and there has not been a positive coronavirus case in the Albury-Wodonga area for 65 days.

The chief steward would not be drawn on the identity of Racing NSW’s biosecurity expert when questioned yesterday.

Meanwhile. Van Gestel also stated that the horse movement protocols between Victoria and NSW were operating satisfactorily.

“The (horses) are going to spelling properties and they are doing 48 hours turnaround and then being moved into stables,” he continued. 

“We’re processing applications on a daily basis and that seems to be working quite well at the moment.”