Wales will go back into lockdown from 6pm on Friday, meaning all non-essential businesses including car dealerships will have to close.
First minister Mark Drakeford, pictured, told a press conference in Cardiff today (Oct 19) that the country would go into a two-week ‘firebreak’ lockdown to reduce the spread of coronavirus and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.
The ‘sharp and deep’ lockdown will begin at 6pm on October 23 and last until November 9, with everyone in Wales required to stay at home.
‘The only exceptions will be critical workers and jobs where working from home is not possible,’ Drakeford said. Exercise will also be permitted.
He stated that the lockdown would be a ‘short, sharp, shock to turn back the clock, slow down the virus and give us more time’.
All non-essential retail, leisure, hospitality and tourism businesses will close ‘just as they had to during the March lockdown’.
That means car dealers will have to close their doors having reopened them on June 22.
Guidance from the Welsh government published on Monday (Oct 19) afternoon confirmed car dealerships will close, but drivers can still have their cars serviced and maintained if it is ‘necessary and cannot be reasonably deferred’.
Despite the lockdown, car drivers still need valid MOTs on their cars and if a car’s MOT is due during the two-week period it can be tested.
At this stage, it is unclear at what level of business car dealers will be able to operate, for example click and collect services.
Speaking to Car Dealer before the announcement was made, Wessex Garages boss Chris Wiseman – who runs showrooms in England and Wales – said: ‘The motor trade is typically resilient, and most dealers have very stringent measures in place for reducing the risk of Covid-19 and for managing the business in the online space.
‘What we will need is a clear definition of what dealers can and cannot do during a lockdown to avoid confusion for us and our customers.’
Along with non-essential retail businesses, community centres, libraries and recycling centres will also close, while places of worship will also be shut other than for funerals or wedding ceremonies.
Small and medium-sized retail, leisure and hospitality businesses that have to close will receive a one-off payment of up to £5,000.
Childcare facilities will stay open, with primary and specialist schools reopening after the half-term break.
People won’t be able to meet indoors or outdoors with anyone they do not live with, with exceptions for those living alone.
The first minister also announced an extra economic resilience fund of almost £300m had been created to support businesses.
Every business covered by the small business rate relief will receive a £1,000 payment.
The first minister has written to the chancellor to ask him to give Welsh businesses early access to the new expanded Job Support Scheme from Friday.
The Welsh government has offered to pay the extra costs to the UK government scheme to ensure businesses can retain staff.
However, it has come in for stinging criticism from the opposition, which says the lockdown will be a double whammy for areas with the lowest rates of coronavirus in the country.
Paul Davies, Tory leader of the opposition in the Senedd, said: ‘Sadly, the first minister has failed to get public support for this second Wales-wide lockdown, failing to be open and transparent about the evidence to justify this lockdown and what his actions will entail for the future.
‘The Welsh government also has to be honest that this road they are taking us down is committing Wales to rolling Wales-wide lockdowns.
‘The impact on businesses in areas such as Powys, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, who have the lowest rate of Covid-19 cases in Wales, will be severe at a time when they are desperately struggling to recover from the pandemic so far this year.
‘The first minister needs to urgently come to the Welsh Parliament and answer these questions, to face effective scrutiny by elected representatives and not run his government by media.’