Plans for a resumption of racing in Britain will be reviewed by the board of the British Horseracing Authority next week.
It was announced last month that racing would be suspended until the end of April amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the last meetings to take place in Britain being at Wetherby and Taunton on March 17, both behind closed doors.
The Government indicated on Thursday there would be no imminent lifting of the lockdown measures that have been in place in Britain from March 23, with the current restrictions including a ban on public gatherings of more than two people.
The sport’s Resumption of Racing Group – established by the COVID19 Racing Industry Group – has been working with horsemen, racecourses and others on a plan to resume racing behind closed doors as soon as that becomes possible. It has already been outlined that any resumption would be phased and take place on the Flat.
Giving an update, a statement said the Resumption of Racing Group’s focus was on “establishing clear, objective criteria to assist the industry in determining how, where and under what conditions a resumption may be accepted by government. The group continues to focus on a framework that will enable racing to be ready to resume on daily basis in a phased and controlled way as soon as possible”.
It added: “The initial phase of that plan will ensure opportunities exist for horses to race under strictly controlled conditions at locations which meet the criteria being established, and not until approved by the BHA board and Government.”
Richard Wayman, chief operating officer of the BHA, said: “Everyone’s first duty at present is to the health and safety of the public, as the Government has made clear. That will clearly be the most important consideration informing their view of when it’s safe for sport to resume.
“But we continue to keep them fully informed of the lockdown’s considerable economic impact on individuals and businesses within racing, and our responsibility for the long-term prosperity and sustainability of the sport.
“We have followed Government guidance throughout this crisis. When they said it was still safe to continue mass gatherings, we continued. When they said the emergency services could no longer support mass gatherings, we stopped. Now it seems clear that – like so many other areas of leisure and business activity – sport will need the support and approval of Government to resume, even if that is behind closed doors.
“The work that’s been done to develop a resumption plan is excellent and has demonstrated that racing would be ready to resume when that becomes possible. We are liaising with Government as part of our development of a responsible, coordinated plan for the return of sport when we’re told it’s safe to do so.”
At the daily No 10 press conference in Downing Street, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab – who is deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson – acknowledged it was hard for people hoping to go out and be with their families over Easter, but he urged them to show restraint amid signs that lockdown measures were having an impact.
“Unfortunately right now we just can’t do those sorts of things and I am really sorry about that,” he said.
“It’s been almost three weeks (since the lockdown was introduced) and we’re starting to see the impact of the sacrifices we’ve all made.
“But the deaths are still rising and we haven’t yet reached the peak of the virus. So it’s still too early to lift the measures that we put in place.
“We must stick to the plan and we must continue to be guided by the science.”
Mr Raab was speaking after chairing a meeting of the Government’s Cobra civil contingencies committee to consider how it would proceed with the three-week review, due next week, of the lockdown rules.
He said the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) would be looking at the evidence but it would not be possible to say any more until the end of next week.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, said measures were “breaking transmission” of the disease with signs of a “flattening off” in the numbers of new cases and hospital admissions.
However, he warned the numbers of deaths would continue to rise for a “few weeks” and that it was too soon to relax social-distancing.
“It is incredibly important that we continue to do what we are doing,” he said.