The remainder of the 2019-20 Irish National Hunt racing season has been cancelled, including the Fairyhouse and Punchestown Festivals.

The board of Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) met today and decided that racing in this country would resume with a month-long flat season, which will more than likely take place behind closed doors, "with adherence to strict social distancing protocols as were successfully operated at ten race fixtures in March" before all large outdoor gatherings were cancelled in an effort to stem the spread of coronavirus.

While the Fairyhouse and Punchestown Festivals will not be rescheduled, the plan is to integrate the 2020 Boylesports Irish Grand National into an enhanced Autumn schedule.

Racing and greyhound racing were the two sports that continued behind closed doors before Taoiseach Leo Varadkar addressed the nation on 24 March. It has been suspended since and Nicky Hartery, chairman of the HRI, admitted they have no idea when it might return.

"We have stressed throughout that Government and HSE guidelines around fighting Covid-19 must come first and racing will only be able to resume when the Government guidelines permit and when there is adequate medical cover in place to ensure that race meetings can be staged safely," said Hartery.

"No-one can predict when this point will be reached."

Brian Kavanagh, the chief executive of HRI, said he hoped to publish a new fixture list as soon as possible.

"Like many other sectors, the racing and breeding industry in Ireland will take a seismic economic blow from the fall-out of Covid-19. We will be working closely with Government to limit the long-term impact of this pandemic.

"We know that jobs will be lost in a key rural industry and that the viability of some industry institutions will come under serious threat," he said.

"We are working on a range of industry supports which we hope to announce in the coming weeks. Once an achievable target resumption date can be identified, a new fixture list covering the rest of the year will be quickly published based on our on-going work, along with revised race programmes which will cater for the entire horse population."