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British industry welcomes upcoming easing of Covid-19 restrictions

| By Robert Fletcher
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) have welcomed plans to remove many of the remaining novel coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions in England later this month.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday (5 July) announced that almost all Covid-19 restrictions and guidance would be lifted from 19 July as Britain moves to stage four of its roadmap out of lockdown.

Rules such as having to wear a face covering in certain environments and measures related to social distancing will be removed in England, but remain in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Scottish government has said that it plans to keep current rules in place until at least 9 August, while Wales and Northern Ireland will review restrictions on 8 July and 15 July, respectively.

“Thanks to the successful rollout of our vaccination programme, we are progressing cautiously through our roadmap,” Johnson said. “But I must stress that the pandemic is not over and that cases will continue to rise over the coming weeks.

“As we begin to learn to live with this virus, we must all continue to carefully manage the risks from Covid-19 and exercise judgement when going about our lives.”

The relaxation of rules in England mean racecourses will be able to host capacity crowds for the first time since March 2020, while spectators in attendance will not be required to wear a face covering or social distance.

The BHA welcomed the announcement, with chair Annamarie Phelps saying the news comes as a “huge boost” to the racing industry that welcomes almost six million fans to race events each year.

“Everyone involved in our sport has been looking forward to this news for the last thirteen months and worked tirelessly and with great patience to safely keep the show on the road in this time,” Phelps said.

“Monday 19 July will be a significant day for all sports, and very much so for British racing.”

However, Phelps did concede that certain restrictions and measures may need to remain in place to ensure the safety of attendees and staff at race meetings.

“We are currently working with our industry colleagues to consider how this might apply to racing and how our racedays will therefore operate from 19 July onwards, and we await further clarity from government,” Phelps said. 

“We also look forward to spectators being permitted to return to sporting events in Scotland and Wales in greater numbers in due course and continue to engage proactively with the Devolved Administrations on this issue.”

BGC chief executive Michael Dugher also welcomed the news, saying the easing of rules will provide a much-needed boost to the economy.

“It is particularly good news for hospitality venues like casinos and their staff, as the businesses have had to endure many, many months of closure and crippling restrictions,” Dugher said.

“Throughout the pandemic, casinos have spent millions of pounds on best-in-class anti-Covid measures and will continue to ensure their venues are as safe as possible for customers and staff once the remaining restrictions are lifted.”

Dugher added that the government should also consider easing restrictions on travel to help kickstart the tourism industry, which could in turn further support the recovery of land-based gambling in Britain.

“We would also like to see further progress on foreign travel, given that, for example, London’s casinos contribute £120m to the capital’s tourism sector,” Dugher said.

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