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Advice to riding schools as first local lockdown imposed: racing takes stock

Riding schools close to the Leicester restricted zone have been advised to check local authority guidance as the city goes back into lockdown.

Leicester is the first city to be put into localised lockdown in the UK since the country-wide restrictions to control the coronavirus pandemic in England were eased.

The restrictions apply to the city and parts of Leicestershire that “touch on the city’s boundaries”.

“There is now a local lockdown in Leicestershire, the council has published a map and we are waiting to confirm specific postcodes that will be affected,” British Horse Society (BHS) head of approved centres Oonagh Meyer told H&H.

“Currently, this doesn’t affect any of our BHS approved centres in Leicestershire, however, we have two that are very close to the map the council has provided so far, meaning that when the list of postcodes is published they may fall into the area.

“At this stage, it appears that Leicester city is affected, rather than outlying rural areas.

“We would advise any riding school in the Leicestershire area to check the Leicestershire.Gov.UK website and follow the local authority guidance.”

Mere Lane Riding School in Oadby is among those on the cusp of the boundary and is open for lessons, with strict safety measures in place.

Click here for a map of the lockdown area

Leicestershire County Council advice is for residents in Leicester and its outlying areas to follow stricter lockdown restrictions than the rest of the country for “at least two weeks, and non-essential shops will be closed”.

“People are being urged to make essential journeys only and stay at home as much as they can,” adds the official advice.

Shops that were allowed to open on 15 June closed again yesterday (30 June) and the city’s bars, restaurants and hairdressers will not open on 4 July as planned.

Schools will also close from tomorrow (2 July), but will remain open for children of key workers and vulnerable children. Relaxation of shielding, which was planned for 6 July, will now not happen.

The government has mooted the possibility of other localised lockdowns in a “whack-a-mole” approach to control the spread of Covid-19 by pinpointing outbreak spikes.

H&H confirmed in March that leaving the house to care for animal’s welfare was permitted under lockdown restrictions and has asked the BEF for clarity on what local lockdown restrictions mean for riding, training and transporting horses. More details are expected soon.

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Racing at Leicester went ahead last night (30 June) and was met with a mixed reaction from the industry.

While some welcomed the move, which was given the green light by the local authority and Public Health England, the decision also drew criticism from some corners.

Trainer Graeme McPherson said that to race at Leicester when “local businesses are being told they can’t open, residents are being told to stay home and everyone is being told to avoid non-essential travel to the city looks insensitive at best, and reckless at worst.”

Local trainer Mick Appleby withdrew his runners, stating the reason was the safety of his staff and that he felt the risk was “too high”.

A statement from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) on Tuesday (30 June) said that local authorities gave permission for the fixture to go ahead as “racecourses are a place of work and strict safety criteria are in place”.

A new statement from the BHA today (1 July) added the organisation is to have “further discussions with the relevant authorities” before making a decision on next week’s meeting at the racecourse (Tuesday, 7 July).

“The BHA will also speak to representative bodies within the industry regarding the issues arising from local lockdowns and the impact they may have in future on racing,” it continued, adding a decision will be made by Friday lunchtime (3 July).

“Yesterday’s race meeting was held with the approval of the local authority and Public Health England under the strict protocols agreed in advance of the resumption of sport behind closed doors.

“The lockdown effectively reinstated restrictions as they were on 14 June 14, in the view of local officials, when racing was permitted in accordance with UK government guidelines.

“Given that the local lockdown measures may still be evolving, it’s important that dialogue continues ahead of any future events in Leicester. Our industry colleagues will be briefed on this dialogue and will consider any potential impacts on racing. Our focus continues to be on making sure racing behind closed doors takes place as safely as possible.”

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