Racing in Ireland is to continue but without owners in attendance after the Irish Government rejected expert advice to introduce the highest level of restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) recommended that all 26 counties be elevated to level five restrictions for the next four weeks, which among other things would have meant no organised sport would be allowed.
The Government will instead move the whole country to level three, which is already in place across Dublin and Donegal.
“It’s back to racing behind closed doors so level three, which means it will only be essential workers allowed,” said Horse Racing Ireland chief executive, Brian Kavanagh.
“We’re back to the situation we were in a month ago, but the good news is racing can continue and will continue, which is great.”
The Irish Cabinet met on Monday afternoon to discuss the recommendations after the coalition leaders spoke to chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan about proposals for tighter restrictions, which would have seen the country return to lockdown.
The recommendation from Nphet was made as the country struggles to get to grips with rising infections, with almost 1,000 cases confirmed over the weekend.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the new restrictions will last for three weeks.
He said that some people are taking a more “lax” attitude.
Mr Martin said there will be an increase in the level of public guidance on compliance over the coming days.
“(The virus) has challenged us to our very core,” he added.
“This is not about public health and businesses competing against each, it’s about protecting and lives and livelihoods.
“If we all act now we will stop the need to go further and I have no doubt we can and will get through this. We will reach a time when we can go through our
lives without worrying if we will catch this virus.
“What happens next rests in our own hands.”
He went on: “We have had detailed discussions since receiving Nphet’s recommendation to move straight to a level five lockdown.
“Central to our discussions has been looking at the wider implications of moving immediately to level five rather than realising the full potential impact
of lower level restrictions.
“It’s important to understand that we are in a very different situation to last March.
“Businesses are beginning to recover and vital public health services are still backlogged, severe restrictions now would have a very damaging impact,
which those services and businesses may not be able to recover from.
“That said, the Government has decided to increase the level of controls in most of the country and to step up efforts to ensure compliance with
“As part of this we have decided at this stage, not to move to a more comprehensive lockdown.
“It’s important to understand that the potential implications of such a move are severe and very different from those we faced earlier this year.
“It could involve the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs with these concentrated in families and communities, which are already experiencing