Racing is due to head behind closed doors once again as the government tighten restrictions in the face of the new challenges arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Wednesday that 23 additions would be made to the areas of England placed under the most severe Tier 3 and 4 restrictions due to the increasing rate of the virus. The move leaves 75% of the UK in either Tier 3 or 4. It also covers every British racecourse.

Spectators have briefly been allowed back on to racecourses in Tiers 1 and 2, notably in early December where a crowd were on hand at Sandown Park to cheer home Politologue in the Tingle Creek Chase.

Hancock’s announcement came on the same day that a further 50,023 new Covid cases were recorded, as well as 981 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

“Unfortunately, this new variant is now spreading across most of England and cases are doubling fast,” Hancock told the House Of Commons. “It is therefore necessary to apply Tier 4 measures to a wider area.

“Even in most areas not moving into Tier 4, cases are rising too, and it is therefore necessary to apply Tier 3 measures more broadly too.

“The new variant means that three-quarters of the population are now going to be in Tier 4 and almost all of the country in Tiers 3 and 4.”

The announcement also means that around 1,800 to 2,000 betting shops have been forced to close, bringing the entire British total to around 6,000.