Irish horseracing to return without spectators from June 8

FILE PHOTO: Riders compete in a race at the Killarney Racecourse in County Kerry in Killarney, Ireland, July 19, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Horse racing will be allowed to resume in Ireland without spectators on June 8, the government said on Friday, with face coverings mandatory for jockeys and temperature tests for all key personnel on entry.

With racing in neighbouring Britain set to resume on June 1 and meetings in France already underway this week, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he wished to move in line with those markets, conscious of the economic value of the industry.

“This is a big economic sector worth nearly 500 million euros ($540 million) to the economy each year and because people won’t be able to travel to race meetings, the amount of movements happening will be very limited,” he told a news conference.

“They won’t be open to spectators for the foreseeable future,” he said, announcing the first easing of restrictions to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Horse Racing Ireland, the sport’s governing body, said only key personnel necessary to run each race meeting will be allowed on site where they will be subject to strict COVID-19 protocols.

That will also include health surveying in advance and a strict enforcement of social distancing. Ten meetings were safely held behind closed doors in March before the shut down of the economy, Horse Racing Ireland added.

“While race fixtures will return in Ireland on June 8, they will be very different from what people will have experienced before,” Horse Racing Ireland Chief Executive Brian Kavanagh said in a statement.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin, Editing by Timothy Heritage