Racing will be allowed to continue behind closed doors despite a new national lockdown that comes into force next week, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has confirmed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new measures to combat a rise in Covid-19 cases at a press conference on Saturday evening, with pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential retail across the nation to close from Thursday.
Dowden announced elite sport – which includes racing – will be allowed to continue during the lockdown, which will run until December 2.
He tweeted: “As the Prime Minister has just confirmed, we will be taking additional restrictions from Thursday. We understand the anxiety & impact these will have, and will ensure they last not a day longer than necessary.
“The changes mean people should WFH (work from home) where possible. But where this is not possible, travel to a place of work will be permitted – e.g. this includes (but not exhaustive) elite sport played behind closed doors, film & tv production, telecoms workers.
BHA statement following this evening's press conference: pic.twitter.com/QkQeXOHF1v— BHA Press Office (@BHAPressOffice) October 31, 2020
“We understand people will have a lot of questions and @DCMS officials & ministers will be working through these and detailed implications with sectors over the coming days.”
Racing was halted for nearly three months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, resuming on June 1 with strict measures in place to help reduce the spread of the virus and only essential staff initially allowed on course.
Owners were allowed to return to the track in a limited way on July 4, with those restrictions steadily eased in the following weeks, and two successful trials for the return of spectators were held at Doncaster and Warwick in September before the Government halted the pilot scheme as Covid cases began to rise.
The British Horseracing Authority welcomed the news that racing will be allowed to continue, but also underlined the need for financial assistance and funding reform with no crowds on course and betting shops, which are non-essential retail, forced to close their doors again.
A statement read: “The horseracing industry has worked hard to maintain the safety of our participants and the communities in which we live and work. We have done all we can to play our part and will continue to do so under the new restrictions.
“The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Oliver Dowden has said tonight that elite sport played behind closed doors will be able to continue in this period. Horseracing is included in that category, which is crucial for our industry.
“The Government’s decision, we believe, recognises the professionalism shown by our people and the vital need to protect their jobs. This is welcome news for the tens of thousands whose livelihoods depend upon our industry.
“Now, more than ever, we recognise the need to act responsibly and keep racing safely. In the difficult weeks ahead, our sport will do its best to lift the nation’s spirits.
“We have set out to Government in recent weeks the perilous future we face with no spectators permitted at present and betting shops closing. Today’s decision does not alter the fact that that racing needs urgent financial aid and funding reform to protect jobs and the future of our world-class industry.”
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