LONDON (Reuters) - The government's decision to give the green light for top-level competitive sport in England from Monday has been welcomed by the British Horseracing Authority which says livelihoods in the multi-billion pound industry are threatened.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden outlined stage three of the government's elite and professional sport guidance on Saturday, saying competitive sport can return without spectators under strict health criteria.
British sport has been suspended since March as part of the country's response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
There has been no horse racing since March 18 at any of Britain's 59 courses, but action will resume with a meeting at Newcastle on Monday.
The first major sporting event in Britain since the lockdown will be the classic 2,000 Guineas flat race next Saturday at Newmarket.
Royal Ascot will start on June 16, also without crowds.
"This is an important stage towards a complete return for our industry and will help protect livelihoods and businesses," BHA Chief Executive Nick Rust said.
"The timing is crucial for the breeding sector and we thank the government and officials at DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) and Public Health England for their assistance in planning a safe return to racing.
"There is still a tough battle ahead before we can get fully back in business but this is a resilient and world-leading industry and we are ready for the task."
Horse racing will adopt a three-stage screening process in order to comply with the government guidelines.
Those working at the course will undergo medical checks before departure and on arrival, social distancing officials will be in place and no spectators will be allowed.
The Jockey Club said the resumption of horse racing was a huge boost to an industry worth around four billion pounds ($4.94 billion).
"The lockdown has been an incredibly hard period for our industry and it will be a long road back to recovery," Group Chief Executive Delia Bushell said.
"Across British Racing, a huge amount of planning, effort and care has gone into ensuring we are ready to resume fixtures in the most responsible way."
(Reporting by Martyn Hermanl; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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