Racing will take place behind closed doors for the immediate future after the Government announced that a tightening of the 'tier' system will come into force across many parts of England from 00:00am on Thursday in an attempt to combat rising coronavirus rates.
It was announced at end of November that outdoor venues in Tier 1 and 2 areas in England would be allowed to admit spectators again following the latest national lockdown in England, with up to 4,000 spectators permitted in Tier 1 areas and up to 2,000 in Tier 2.
Hundreds of punters were allowed through the turnstiles at Haydock, Kempton, Lingfield and Ludlow on December 2, while December 5 saw racegoers on course for the Tingle Creek meeting at Sandown and Becher Chase day at Aintree.
More recently members have returned to Cheltenham for the first time since the Festival in March, but just days later it was announced more areas of the country would move into Tier 3 and Tier 4, quashing hopes of a crowd for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
And with Covid-19 cases still on the rise due to the discovery of a more virulent strain, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced in the House of Commons on Wednesday that three-quarters of the country will be in Tier 3 or Tier 4 by Thursday, including every area which homes a racecourse in Britain. He said: “Unfortunately, this new variant is now spreading across most of England and cases are doubling fast.
“It is therefore necessary to apply Tier 4 measures to a wider area... even in most areas not moving into Tier 4, cases are rising too, and it is therefore necessary to apply Tier 3 measures more broadly too.
“The new variant means that three-quarters of the population are now going to be in Tier 4 and almost all of the country in Tiers 3 and 4.
“And I know that Tier 3 and 4 measures place a significant burden on people, and especially on businesses affected, but I am afraid it is absolutely necessary because of the number of cases that we’ve seen.”
The British Horseracing Authority confirmed on Tuesday that owners will no longer be able to attend meetings held in Tier 4 areas from New Year’s Day and owners living under Tier 4 restrictions are not permitted to attend race meetings in Tiers 1-3.