Government considering 5-day quarantine for F1 personnel


A senior minister in the government's department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, understood to be tourism minister, Nigel Huddleston has said it has "noted and understood" the need for F1 personnel to have five days of quarantine in advance of races.

His comment comes in the wake of claims that sports, including F1, would be exempt from a new rule to be imposed from the end of May that would see all travellers arriving in the UK subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

According to reports, those classed as exempt from the rule would have to test negative for the virus. Indeed, the Sun claims that personnel would have to undergo "a rigorous testing regime and isolate themselves immediately if they test positive for the virus".

However, as previously reported, in order to test negative, personnel would have to go into solitary confinement for 5 days.

"Current tests are not sensitive enough to detect infections within the first couple of days after infection," Dr Jeremy Rossman, a virologist at the University of Kent, told the Independent. "Most people will have a detectable virus in three to five days, so testing everyone three times over a span of five days would give good confidence that most people are not infected."

"All staff would have to be isolated during the testing and during the whole event," he added.

Basically, if F1 personnel catch the virus in the five days leading up to being tested, it will not be detectable. Consequently, infected personnel could still show up as being negative for the virus. In order to avoid this, those who test negative would need to be tested again five days later in case they caught the virus in the days prior to their first test. Between the two tests the personnel would be required to stay in solitary confinement to ensure they do not pick up the virus from anyone that they might come into contact with.

It is believed that even without spectators, there would still be more than a thousand people at each 'closed door' event, McLaren's Andreas Seidl admitting that this is "because we simply need all the people in order to operate the cars, to service them during the weekend and to race them and do the pit stops."

Rossman is the first virologist to publically comment on the implications for F1, telling the Independent that "even this stringent testing process would likely miss an individual with a prolonged incubation" as "there are some reports of incubation periods as long as two weeks."

"Just one infected person that slips through the isolation could then spread the virus to multiple people, especially over a multiple day event," he warned "The international nature of this event is one of the biggest causes of concern."

His warning wasn't lost on tourism minister, Nigel Huddleston, who tells Forbes that Rossman's claim of the need for five days of quarantine in advance of races has been "noted and understood".

A 5-day quarantine wouldn't necessarily rule out back-to-back events, but it would certainly make things more difficult.

"I don’t think it’s possible to eliminate the risk associated with the event," says Rossman, "though it is possible to minimise them, albeit with significant effort of all people involved."

Other than the measures currently in place, such as hand-washing - or hand-wringing at F1 Towers - and social distancing, he says that "providing sanitizer stations and requiring all staff to wear face coverings, could all help to reduce any transmission that does slip through the testing. Finally, requiring all staff to self-isolate for two weeks when they return home could also help to minimise virus transmission.

"Removing the spectators is a good step," he admits, "but with the very large number of support staff, the risks of international transmission and triggering multiple COVID-19 resurgences is very real," says Rossman.

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Published: 13/05/2020
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