Racing in Ireland is set to remain on hold following an extension of lockdown restrictions to May 5 by the Irish Government.
Following an announcement last month, all sporting events in Ireland were cancelled until at least April 19 due to the coronavirus outbreak, including those behind closed doors. A number of race meetings had taken place without spectators in Ireland up until then.
The current lockdown measures in Ireland, which prevent people from leaving home in all but limited circumstances, were due to expire on Easter Sunday.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said on Friday the advice from Ireland’s national public health emergency team was to extend the restrictions until Tuesday, May 5. He said the Government had accepted that advice.
Mr Varadkar thanked Irish people for their forbearance and said every sacrifice they were making was saving lives.
He said: “Because the vast majority of people have heeded the advice of the experts we have been able to interrupt the spread of the virus, we have been able to shelter the most vulnerable and protect them.
“Your sacrifices are making a difference, we have slowed the spread of the virus considerably but unfortunately we have not stopped its spread.”
Mr Varadkar added: “We all know people who are suffering and grieving at this time, too many have died and sadly more will die and get sick before this is over.
“So today’s message is that we cannot be complacent and we cannot lose focus.
“What we’re doing is difficult, but it is making a difference and we have to keep going. We need to persevere and we need to maintain our discipline and resolve.
“The restrictions we introduced two weeks ago were set to expire on Sunday.
“Today, the expert recommendation is to extend them for a further three weeks until Tuesday, May 5.
“The Government has accepted this recommendation.”
People have been ordered to remain in their homes in all but a limited set of specific circumstances.
The circumstances include travelling to or from work deemed to be essential, food shopping, medical appointments, brief exercise, farming activity and vital family reasons.
People who do leave their homes for exercise are prevented from travelling beyond a 2km radius from their homes.
All people over the age of 70, and other people considered vulnerable to the disease, have been told to “cocoon” and not leave home at all. All non-essential surgery, health procedures and other non-essential health services have been postponed.
All public and private gatherings of any number of people outside a single household or living unit have been prohibited for the last two weeks and social visits to relatives beyond the family unit at home have not been allowed.
Horse Racing Ireland last week announced the Irish 2019/2020 National Hunt season had come to a close following the suspension of racing in Ireland and that the Fairyhouse and Punchestown Festivals would not be rescheduled.
The HRI board has previously said it recognised that, at least initially, when racing does restart it will be on the Flat and most likely behind closed doors, with adherence to strict social distancing protocols as were successfully operated at the 10 race fixtures in March.