The Hong Kong Jockey Club has started to incrementally increase the number of people allowed to attend the races after confirming “voting members with seasonal tables” will be admitted to Wednesday night’s Happy Valley meeting.

Only key personnel, staff and owners with starters have been permitted on course for race days in the past month, but after the government’s announcement that it would steadily resume public services, the Jockey Club plans to follow suit and gradually expanding crowds.

For the past four weeks, no more than 500 people have been on course while a host of precautionary measures – such as temperature screening, regular cleaning and the mandatory wearing of face masks – have been put in place.

Horses in front of empty stands at Happy Valley.

There have been no public health incidents at the races in that time and after conducting a review, which included feedback from owners and members, the Jockey Club has decided to allow voting members with seasonal tables in. There are less than 400 “voting members” and “honorary voting members” combined.

“The club will continue to ensure social distancing at all racecourse venues open during race meetings,” the Jockey Club said in a statement. “It will also continue to implement all other precautionary measures for the protection of customers and staff.”

The move provides some optimism that more fans will be able to attend some of the feature meetings coming up, starting with the BMW Hong Kong Derby on Sunday week, followed by FWD Champion’s Day on April 26.

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Despite the small change, cross-betting remains closed while there are no betting services available at any of the 101 off-course betting branches [OCBBs]. Those who want to have a wager must do so via the club’s automated and online systems.

The Jockey Club confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that 15 of the larger OCBBs, as well as the facilities at the Sha Tin and Happy Valley racecourses, will be open from 9.30am until 7.30pm on March 12 and 16 so fans can cash-in tickets or make deposits/withdrawals from their accounts.

After suffering significant hits to turnover when the restrictions were first put in place – almost 26 per cent on some cards – the haemorrhaging has more than halved over the last two meetings after punters were given access to the OCBBs last week for the first time in a month.