COVID-19: Christophe Soumillon shocked by lack of testing on return from Dubai

Horse Racing Thunder Snow and Christophe Soumillon
Happier days in Dubai: Christophe Soumillon and Thunder Snow after 2019 World Cup success. Photo: Dubai Racing Club

By Jon Lees

France: Record-breaking jockey Christophe Soumillon has expressed his horror at being allowed back into the country without being tested for coronavirus.

Soumillon said he had “more trouble at the bakery than at customs” when he arrived at Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airport as he returned from Dubai, following the cancellation of this weekend’s Dubai World Cup meeting.

“In the past month, I have travelled a lot in Dubai, Hong Kong and Japan,” he said in an interview with the Super Moscato Show on the RMC radio station. “Since the start of the epidemic, I have done several tests, all negative, so as not to bring the virus home. 

“This Monday morning, arriving at customs, I was shocked. I did not undergo any control. I find it absurd. They did not take the temperature, and they asked me nothing, neither email address nor telephone number.”

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Recounting his experience at other airports, he went on: “In Dubai and in Japan, everyone wears masks and is protected. In France, I was simply checked to know if I had brought back cigarettes or other. 

“We opened my suitcase without a glove, and it was up to me to close it. People come in and out of the country as if nothing had happened. At customs, there was only one person, the other counters being empty. No one asked me where I came from or what I was doing. 

“I also saw a lot of tourists arriving in France who were not checked either. How can we let everyone in because of the situation? I had more trouble at the bakery than at customs.”

Earlier this month Soumillon became the most successful jockey in French history when he rode his 3,315th winner to surpass the record of the great Yves Saint-Martin.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted horse racing programmes around the world.

On Tuesday Racing New South Wales announced bans on interstate jockeys and trainers and imposed travel restrictions on horses coming from other states that are bound to impact the remaining autumn carnival.

Woodbine racecourse in Toronto announced the postponement of the start of its racing season, limiting backstretch activity to only essential care of horses. No training will be allowed until further notice. In France racing has been suspended until April 15.

Soumillon said: “I hope we can resume as soon as possible, because our job is to race. Financially, it will be fine for some of us, but others could soon have financial problems.”

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