Racing in the UK will continue behind closed doors, as new national lockdowns begin at midnight on Jan. 5. Cases of coronavirus are rising in both countries and their respective governments have imposed new COVID restrictions. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson cited the rising death toll in the past seven days and the new coronavirus variant that is widespread in the UK as the primary reasons for a third lockdown, which is expected to last until mid-February. The BHA confirmed that racing will continue without fans and with only essential personnel in attendance shortly after Johnson's announcement.
“As I speak to you tonight, our hospitals are under more pressure from Covid than at any time since the start of the pandemic,” Johnson said in part, in an address to the nation. “I know how tough this is, and I know how frustrated you are and I know you have had more than enough of government guidance about defeating this virus, but now, more than ever, we must pull together.
“The number of deaths is up by 20% over the last week and will sadly rise further. With most of the country already under extreme measures, it's clear that we need to do more together to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out.”
The statement from the BHA read, “Following this evening's broadcast, we can confirm racing will continue behind closed doors during the upcoming national lockdown. Attendance will be limited to those essential to the staging of fixtures and strict adherence to British racing's COVID-19 protocols will continue to be required for all who attend.”
Scotland's lockdown is expected to last through January and carries a new legal requirement forbidding anyone from leaving their home except for essential purposes. Only essential personnel will be allowed at racing fixtures, and no owners are permitted to attend a fixture until further notice.
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in a statement to the Scottish Parliament, “We are now seeing a steeply rising trend of infections. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that I am more concerned about the situation we face now than I have been at any time since March last year. As a government our clear duty right now is to act quickly and decisively to safeguard health, save lives and protect the NHS.
“The advice of our clinical advisers is very clear that the increased transmissibility of the new variant means that the current level 4 measures may not be sufficient to bring the R number back below 1. It is essential that we further limit interaction between different households to stem the spread and bring the situation back under control, while we vaccinate more people. In short, we must return for a period to a situation much closer to the lockdown of last March.”
Scottish Racing, which represents Ayr, Hamilton Park, Kelso, Musselburgh and Perth tweeted, “Following today's announcement that Scotland is to re-enter full Covid restrictions, @ScotGov has confirmed that racing in Scotland can continue behind closed doors. Only individuals essential to staging the fixtures should attend race meetings and are required to continue to follow the strict protocols already in place. Unfortunately, no owners will be permitted to attend a racecourse until further notice.”