Horse racing in Ireland is set to resume next month behind closed doors, it has been confirmed.
The decision to bring forward the reopening of horse racing comes following discussions between Horse Racing Ireland and the Government.
As part of the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, horse racing was scheduled to be part of the third phase, however a decision was taken yesterday to move it to the second phase, beginning on June 8.
Only key personnel necessary to run the fixture will be permitted to be on site where they will be subject to Covid-19 protocols.
All those in attendance will be subject to health surveying in advance and thermal temperature screening on entry.
Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said: "We are grateful to be one of the sectors permitted to go back to work and acknowledge the responsibility on everybody in racing to ensure the events are run in a safe way.
"We know from our own experience in March when we safely ran ten meetings behind closed doors - and from what is happening in other countries like France, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and America - that racing can be staged safely within the requirements of social distancing.
"With significant input from the IHRB's chief medical officer Dr Jennifer Pugh, we have strengthened the HRI Covid-19 protocols and so, while race fixtures will return in Ireland on June 8, they will be very different from what people will have experienced before."
Among the new protocols that will be enforced when fixtures restart behind closed doors include:
+ Only key personnel will be permitted to attend race fixtures
+ All attendees will be subject to health screening in advance and thermal temperature screening on arrival - anyone presenting with elevated temperatures will be denied access and instructed to consult with their GP
+ Mandatory wearing of face coverings for many attendees including jockeys, stalls handlers, medical professionals, security staff, those working inside etc
+ Social distancing will be strictly enforced by a dedicated Covid-19 protocol officer at each fixture
Mr Kavanagh added: "We will publish our full protocols tomorrow and will require any key personnel necessary to run a race fixture to read the document in full.
"There must be full compliance with these protocols and to assist the industry in becoming familiar with the changed workplace, a series of webinars on the Covid 19 Protocols will be announced next week.
"On Sunday we will release a revised fixture list up to the end of June, including confirmation on when the Classics, traditionally scheduled for this time of year, will be run."
Andrew Coonan, chief executive of the Irish Jockeys Association (IJA), also welcomed the news.
He added: "This is a particularly busy and important time in the racing calendar and an additional 20 days of racing is very much welcomed.
"Of course, the safety of the riders, staff and the general public is paramount and once we can ensure that they are protected I am confident we will be in a position to adhere to all the guidelines and best practices."