Car dealerships in Wales will be forced to shut again as the country moves into the highest Tier 4 from midnight on Saturday, December 19.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said the rules would mean non-essential retail – including car dealers – close contact services, gyms and leisure centres and hospitality would close at ‘end of trading’ today.
His announcement came after a meeting with the first ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as Michael Gove, on the new strain of coronavirus.
The restrictions will be imposed across the whole of Wales.
It will mean that car dealerships will be forced to shut their showrooms again and return to offering click and collect sales only.
They were originally planning to close on Christmas Eve for the lockdown but this has been bought forward.
Service and repair will be allowed to continue, as before, as it’s classed as an essential service. Those dealers that offer both will not be able to allow people to browse showrooms.
The new strain is ‘significantly more infectious and spreads more quickly’ than the original one, Drakeford told a press conference.
He detailed how the pattern of transmission in London and the South East of England, which has been linked to the new variant, is ‘remarkably consistent with the rapid acceleration of transmission in Wales’ and the high case rates seen in recent weeks.
Drakeford said the latest evidence suggested that the new strain is ‘present throughout Wales’.
He added: ‘Today has been one of those days when new information has required an immediate response.
‘This afternoon, the Cabinet met to discuss this worrying new development in the pandemic and to hear the latest advice from our senior medical and scientific advisers, including the impact on our NHS.
‘The situation is incredibly serious. I cannot overstate this.
‘We have therefore reached the difficult decision to bring forward the alert Level four restrictions for Wales, in line with the action being taken in London and the south east of England.
‘These new restrictions will come into effect from midnight tonight instead of during the Christmas period.’
Stay-at-home rules will also come into effect from midnight.
Click and collect
Chris Wiseman, managing director of Wessex Garages which has dealerships in Wales, told Car Dealer earlier this week that his business managed to operate under the firebreak lockdown and hopes to be able to still do business under Tier 4 too.
He said: ‘From what we can gather the Tier 4 restrictions are that non essential businesses are closed but click and collect is permissible.
‘We will operate a central online click and collect model as we did in England during November. This was very successful for us achieving around 80 per cent of prior year sales.
‘At this point we have to assume that aftersales departments can still operate as an essential service.’
Trade Centre Group boss Andy Coulthurst, who runs three car supermarkets in Wales, told Car Dealer at the same time: ‘While the introduction of a Tier 4 in Wales was expected, it is disappointing that no consideration has been given to non-essential retail businesses that have plenty of space to open safely such as car retail, garden centres and furniture stores.
‘We are now well versed in the stop/start dynamic which has become the new norm in retail and will continue to build high levels of appointments for our Trade Centre Wales stores to satisfy the pent-up demand that will build over coming weeks for our annual sale.’