A total of 20 Walkinshaw Andretti United staff including Chaz Mostert have passed precautionary COVID-19 testing ahead of this weekend’s return of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.
WAU is one of several teams based in Melbourne, where there have been new outbreaks of the coronavirus such that Victoria has today reported the death of a man in his 80s, and double-digit new case figures for an eighth day in a row.
Although the team’s Clayton workshop is located the City of Monash, one of Melbourne’s less affected local government areas, interacting with the general public in the Victorian capital presents a not insignificant risk of contracting the virus.
Following the recent occurrence also of a scare for the Essendon Australian Rules Football club, the Holden squad sought to have key employees including the Queensland-based Mostert, team-mate Bryce Fullwood, and all travelling personnel for the BP Ultimate Sydney SuperSprint, tested for COVID-19.
What is said to be “a year-long testing regime” began yesterday and results received today have confirmed that all of those staff are indeed free of the virus.
“First and foremost, the protection of our staff has been paramount in our decision making throughout this worldwide pandemic,” said Co-Team Principal Bruce Stewart.
“Being a Victorian team, and recognising that there are still active cases in hotspots around the state, we investigated the AFL protocols and accordingly felt it prudent to test staff before and after the event. It certifies all staff are healthy at that time, and also helps to protect the rest of the Supercars paddock.
“We reached out to Supercars Medical Delegate, Dr Carl Le, who put us in contact with Dorevitch Pathology, who were able to facilitate an on-site station to test our travelling staff.
“Dorevitch Pathology was fantastic with their approach and professionalism, and now we are working closely together to map out a full testing programme for the remainder of the year, as we plan to ensure staff are tested before each event, and immediately after before returning to work.
“It is a credit to our staff, who have been very supportive and actively engaged in the implementation of this protocol.”
Dr Le explained, “In preparation for Sydney Motorsport Park, I contacted Dorevitch Pathology who I knew were capable of providing efficient COVID-19 swab testing as they do for the AFL.
“In this instance, they sent a mobile team to Walkinshaw Andretti United yesterday afternoon, with Chaz being tested separately on the Gold Coast.
“All 20 tests that were taken yesterday afternoon returned as negative this morning. All 13 staff heading to Sydney will now follow infection prevention protocols and the team can be assured that they are not travelling with COVID-19.”
As a two-car operation, WAU is restricted to a staff of 13 at this weekend’s BP Ultimate Sydney SuperSprint, including Mostert and Fullwood.
A number of social distancing measures will be implemented at Sydney Motorsport Park, which is officially set to host Races 7 to 9 of the Supercars Championship, including drivers briefings via Zoom and paddock markings to prevent teams from intermingling.
All attendees will stay at a hotel across the road from the Western Sydney circuit, but several team bosses will be absent due to the personnel limit.
The Supplementary Regulations also mandate that “Teams are required to update their Workplace Health and Safety Policy and Procedures Manual with specific inclusion of COVID-19 management procedures and a response plan outlining how the Team will respond to a Team member developing symptoms of COVID-19 at both their Team workshop and at the Event.”
Each team must also formally appoint a ‘COVID-19 Compliance Officer’, and temperature testing of all attendees will be conducted upon entry to the circuit each day.