The Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee has announced that all point-to-points will be suspended with immediate effect following updated Government guidance on measures to control Covid-19 infection rates. 

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine indicated that point-to-point racing would not be included in the category of professional and elite sports permitted to continue behind closed doors. 

Paul Murtagh, registrar of the INHSC, said: "On behalf of the stewards of the INHSC, we note the clarification received today from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine that point-to-points should not take place until further notice, recognising the difficult situation the country finds itself in presently.

"We will now begin to investigate the options available to us around the fixture list and race programming for when we are permitted to recommence. We will continue to liaise closely with HRI on this matter and will remain racing-ready to run point-to-points once we get the green light."

The British point-to-point season has been temporarily suspended since 4 January.

Meanwhile, amateur riders in Britain will be prevented from competing under Rules as of Saturday.

The move has been made by the racing industry's Covid-19 steering group, which constantly reviews coronavirus protocols to determine how racing can continue to strengthen its approach.

The group has reached its decision because it "is in line with government restrictions around the definition of elite sport and the associated suspension of grassroots sport".

Races already in the calendar will have their conditions changed by the British Horseracing Authority to reflect the current situation.

Leading amateur David Maxwell, who owns the horses he rides and is on the verge of returning to fitness following a serious neck injury, acknowledges the reasons for the change, even though it will dash his own plans.

He said: "It’s disappointing – but the thing about the whole situation, which I’ve found from the very start, is that you start from a position where something bad has happened to you.

"I’m initially thinking 'I’ve got 15 of these to ride in hunter chases, poor me’ – but then you start thinking about the people who have lost their jobs and their businesses and all the people who have lost their lives."

Maxwell himself has been affected personally by the pandemic, as his driver and friend Mohammed Sidat died after contracting coronavirus recently. 

He added: "Poor old Mohammed died – so in the grand scheme of this pandemic, amateurs not being allowed to ride is a small inconvenience in the scale of what is going on.

"It’s annoying – but with what is going on, it is small potatoes."

Hunter chases, previously the domain of amateur jockeys, will continue to be programmed but will be open to professional riders only.

Amateur riders are still permitted to compete in races under Rules in Ireland.