Irish racing crowds appear set to return in increased numbers from next week after confirmation in a briefing from The Taoiseach of plans to begin lifting the vast majority of remaining Covid-19 restrictions.
Among a raft of impending relaxations, Micheal Martin announced that, from next Monday September 6, there will be an easing of attendance restrictions at organised indoor and outdoor events.
The detailed arrangements published by the Irish Government on Tuesday evening included the new regulation that 75% of capacity will be available at outdoor events from the start of next week for vaccinated individuals.
The anticipated update follows recent submissions to Government from Horse Racing Ireland to double current capacity on course from 500 to 1,000 at each meeting – with consideration of up to 5,000 for both days of the Longines Irish Champions meeting, which will take place at Leopardstown and the Curragh on September 11 and 12.
Crowd restrictions for British racing have already been waived, as measures to mitigate against the coronavirus pandemic continue to be relaxed.
But in Ireland, stricter controls have remained – with the highest attendances coming when 1,000 racegoers were permitted both at the Galway Festival and for a Government pilot event when the Curragh hosted the Irish Derby in June.
Close to 90% of people over the age of 18 are now fully vaccinated in Ireland.
Mr Martin said in his address to the nation: “We are very unlikely to ever be able to be rid of the virus completely.
“Indeed, we expect to see an increase in case numbers over the coming weeks.
“But the combined strategy of careful reopening and energetic vaccination has brought us to a point where we can begin to do things differently.
“Sectors that remain closed or are still subject to massive restrictions, can begin to hope again.
“Obviously, we must remain vigilant and nimble, and if a new dangerous variant of concern emerges or if our hospitals come under unsustainable pressure again, we will move quickly to respond to the situation.
“But what is very clear is the efficacy of our vaccines in protecting against severe illness, ICU admission and death.
“Given this, a range of remaining restrictions will be gradually and carefully eased during September, with a view to achieving a significant change in approach towards the end of October.”