British horseracing has issued new guidance to racegoers as it makes final plans for the safe return of full crowds in England from Monday.
The Government confirmed earlier this week that the fourth step in the Covid roadmap will go ahead from July 19, allowing venues to return to full capacity with no social distancing.
The Scottish and Welsh Governments have since announced their own rules, and racegoers are advised to check in advance with racecourses in Scotland and Wales to ensure they understand the variations and differences in key dates.
While English racecourses will no longer have limits on crowds from next week, as legal restrictions come to an end, the public has been asked to observe a number of “requests”.
Those requests include being vaccinated against coronavirus and taking up the Government’s offer of free lateral flow tests, so spectators can “consider taking one before you travel” to a racecourse.
The Government has said it will encourage high-risk venues to use a system of Covid certification – and while British racing will not be introducing such a system at this stage, the British Horseracing Authority and the Racecourse Association are “working with DCMS to develop the detailed operation guidance needed to safely introduce certification”, should it be required.
On behalf of the sport, David Armstrong, chief executive of the RCA, said: “We thank all our racegoers for the responsible behaviour they have shown since they were able to return to racecourses, and we are very excited to welcome back all racegoers from Monday in England and later in August in Wales and Scotland.
“As an outdoors event, people can have confidence in attending a race meeting in safety.
“Nevertheless, we encourage all to continue to follow the recommended advice and in particular to check on any restrictions that are still in place in Scotland and Wales. The safety of our racegoers will always be our top priority.
“We continue to liaise with our colleagues from other major sports and local and national authorities to ensure we are all operating to the highest levels of public safety. That includes planning for a system of Covid certification should that be required.”
The BHA also released updated Covid-19 guidelines and operating procedures for participants, with some “additional infection prevention and control measures” remaining in place in an attempt to “safeguard the industry from the risk of Covid-related disruption”.
The weighing room complex will remain a “strictly controlled area”, with participants entering the weighing room asked to wear face covering and continue to socially distance.
Elsewhere on course, the use of face coverings is recommended, particularly in enclosed and crowded areas.
Like spectators, participants are also encouraged to bolster their protection and reduce the risk of transmission of coronavirus by accepting both doses of the vaccine and completing regular lateral flow tests to identify positive cases in advance of raceday.
The BHA’s chief medical adviser, Dr Jerry Hill, said: “Racing has demonstrated throughout the pandemic our ability to conduct race meetings safely and sensibly, with participants adapting quickly to new processes and following rigorously the infection control measures in place.
“While the full return of spectators and the further easing of restrictions is welcome, with cases continuing to rise, racing must do what we can to protect our people and industry – especially against the ongoing risk of 10-day self-isolation for close contacts of infected individuals.
“The best way to bolster protection is through vaccination, accompanied by regular lateral flow testing, but we will also retain some measures on course to help protect those participants working in higher-risk indoor areas, particularly the weighing room complex.
“As ever, I want to thank everyone for their adherence to the protocols and continuing to behave responsibly on course. Avoiding disruption to the racing industry must remain our utmost priority – and everyone can play their part in this respect.”