New Year races to go ahead ... without the crowds - RTHK
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New Year races to go ahead ... without the crowds

2020-01-24 HKT 22:30
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  • The Lunar New Year races usually draw huge crowds to Sha Tin. Image: Shutterstock
    The Lunar New Year races usually draw huge crowds to Sha Tin. Image: Shutterstock
The Hong Kong Jockey Club has announced that the Lunar New Year races, one of the most popular events on the racing calendar, will go ahead despite the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak – but only a relatively small crowd will be allowed into the Sha Tin course.

The races, which are scheduled for Monday, usually attract tens of thousands of fans, but the Jockey Club says attendance will be limited to the 8,000 people who've pre-booked seats at restaurants and in boxes. All other facilities on the course, as well as off-course betting shops, will be closed.

"We are particularly aware that Chinese New Year Raceday is a very important part of community life during the Chinese New Year holidays, providing racing and betting entertainment to around one million racing fans," the club said in a statement.

"The cancellation of the Chinese New Year Raceday would therefore not only impact those who choose to visit the racecourses but all those who stay at home or elsewhere to enjoy the races on TV or via other platforms."

The club will admit horse owners, officials and other essential staff, but the number of part-time employees will be reduced from 11,000 to 3,000. Staff who were due to work will be given a discretionary payment.

All customers will be given a temperature screening on arrival. They will also have the opportunity to cancel their bookings, though the club said: "According to medical experts, the level of health risk is not higher than visiting restaurants in shopping malls."

The club says the same arrangement, including the closure of off-course shops, will continue until further notice as it monitors the spread of the virus.

The Mark Six snowball draw, scheduled for Tuesday, will be pushed back until Saturday, February 1.