The Melbourne Cup Carnival will go ahead, but no crowds will be allowed at Flemington for the four-day festival of racing, according to the Victoria Racing Club (VRC).

Key points:Ongoing COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria have forced authorities to ban crowds from this year’s Melbourne Cup Carnival The carnival features Victoria Derby Day, Melbourne Cup Day, Oaks Day and Mackinnon Stakes Day The Victorian Premier has delayed an announcement on the next steps in easing COVID-19 restrictions in Melbourne

In a statement, VRC chairman Amanda Elliott said it was clear it would not be possible to safely host even small crowds at the racecourse for the festival.

“While we are very disappointed not to be able to welcome our members and racegoers to cup week, we understand the Government’s commitment to keeping our community safe,” Ms Elliot said.

“We also recognise the need for certainty and clarity for our patrons, being only six days out from Derby Day.

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“We are still in discussions regarding the potential return to the track for a small number of owners, as is currently permitted in regional Victoria.”

Earlier in the day, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews delayed announcing the next steps in Melbourne’s reopening, saying it was “not safe” yet to ease restrictions significantly.

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Victoria recorded seven new coronavirus cases on Sunday, including six linked to an outbreak in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

Whether crowds should be allowed at race meetings has been a focus of debate ahead of the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

Last week the Victorian Government announced a limited number of owners would be allowed to Moonee Valley for Saturday’s Cox Plate meeting, before backtracking on the decision.

Melbourne Cup Day has traditionally drawn up to 100,000 people to Flemington.(ABC News: Tim Marshall, file photo)

Ms Elliott said despite restrictions, the carnival would go ahead and be watched by television audiences “from across Australia and around the world”.

The carnival, comprising Victoria Derby Day, Melbourne Cup Day, Oaks Day and Mackinnon Stakes Day, traditionally sees big crowds head to Flemington, including up to 100,000 on Cup day itself.

“We will play our part in supporting Victoria’s emergence from this pandemic as Melbourne moves closer to a normal environment over summer,” Ms Elliott said.

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