Punchestown may be used as coronavirus vaccination centre

The Co Kildare racecourse is currently a testing venue for the Covid-19 virus

Punchestown officials are in talks with the Health Service Executive about the racecourse being used as a potential new coronavirus vaccination centre later this year.

Epsom racecourse is one of seven Covid-19 vaccination hubs in use in England and the opportunity for a racecourse to be similarly used in this country is being examined by health authorities.

Punchestown is currently a testing centre for the virus. Cork racecourse was another racing facility used for testing although that stopped last summer.

“We gave the HSE the event centre here rent-free for the purpose of Covid-19 testing. It’s a standalone facility so it doesn’t impact on racing activities which take place on the remainder of the site,” Punchestown’s manager, Conor O’Neill, said on Tuesday.

“We are currently looking to see if we can provide facilities to them for vaccination.

In discussions

“Obviously testing and vaccination will have to be completely separate operations. It will be the intention, if we were to create a vaccination centre, that testing would continue. But we are in discussions to see if we can come up with a suitable solution that works for everybody.

“Obviously anything we can do to assist them we will do it,” O’Neill added.

Where on the major racecourse site any new vaccination system might be located has yet to be decided. However it won’t interfere with the racing programme at the Co. Kildare track.

Horse Racing Ireland’s chief executive said on Tuesday that the sport’s ruling body has offered racecourses to the health authorities in the fight against the pandemic.

"HRI has offered facilities. Obviously it's a matter for individual racecourses. It's their property. But racing will do its bit in any way possible," Brian Kavanagh said.

“Cork and Punchestown have both been used as testing centres and Punchestown is still being used as a testing centre. We have offered facilities to the HSE in any way they want to use them,” he added.