Harness Racing's waiting game

By Michael Guerin

The waiting game looks set to continue till at least Friday afternoon for harness racing participants hoping to race this weekend.

Addington will hold 17 races on Sunday basically combining the meeting that was to be held on Friday night with the Ashburton meeting already scheduled for Sunday, but of course that can only go ahead if the region is back at Level 3 or better.

The Government is set to announce at its daily 1pm Covid briefing on Friday if the regions outside Auckland and the Coromandel will come out of Level 4 at midnight on Friday, the earliest possible end to the three day Level 4 lockdown enforced on Tuesday.

Put simply, if Canterbury and Christchurch are no longer at Level 4 on Sunday the Addington meeting is likely to go ahead.

While that decision will ultimately be based on the testing data and subsequent health authorities recommendations to the Government tomorrow, there was at least some good news on Thursday for those outside the Auckland and Coromandel areas, which will remain in Level 4 lockdown until at least midnight Tuesday and in Auckland’s case probably longer because most of the cases detected are already there.

The good news for those in the South Island, which is the focus of the harness racing weekend, is that at late Thursday afternoon there had been no positive Covid tests recorded there from the latest outbreak and just as importantly the waste water tests from all regions in the South Island showed no signs of Covid.

Waste water testing has become a crucial early indicator of Covid in individual regions and cities because while a person may have Covid and not be tested to detect it, traces of that person’s Covid will in most cases be passed into waste water.

No traces of Covid in waste water anywhere in the South Island, and even much of the North Island, in testing done on Monday and Tuesday is a hugely positive sign that the virus wasn’t present in those areas then.

That of course doesn’t mean there is no Covid in the South Island now as people have travelled there since lockdown was announced on Tuesday while others may have developed the virus in the last two days.

But the lack of Covid in the waste water testing so far it is a crucially important early indicator.

If there are still no positive cases in the South Island or no traces of Covid in the waste water testing there by Friday there is at least a chance the island could return to Level 3 on Saturday and therefore racing can go ahead on Sunday.

When New Zealand first went into lockdown last year changes of levels were usually announced days in advance so reducing levels was a slow process whereas in more recent lockdowns, like that in Wellington in June, we have seen the Government return down through the alert levels more quickly, especially in regions with zero cases.

Whether that means the South Island and in the case of Addington, Canterbury, is back at level 3 in time for Sunday is the question for harness racing participants and punters, even if a return to racing is only a small part of a far more serious national and global issue.

All of this, of course, is out of the hands of harness racing officials but they are least got on the front foot and put Sunday’s combined meeting together, which is no small undertaking.

Whether that ends up being in vain or we can all enjoy some racing including the return of some open class pacers on Sunday, we won’t know until Friday afternoon.

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