Government reverses on warning not to stop at petrol stations or motorway services amid rising coronavirus cases

Time 10:13 am, September 27, 2020

The government has back-tracked on advice warning drivers not to stop at petrol stations unless ‘absolutely vital’.

Car drivers had been warned not to stop at petrol stations unless ‘absolutely vital’ in government advice issued this week.

But the government reversed on the advice warning drivers to only stop at petrol stations and motorway services if ‘they really need to’, after pressure from the industry.

The advice was softened and now reminds drivers to maintain social distancing if they do have to and to wash their hands before and after their visit.

The Petrol Retail Association (PRA) urgently sought clarification from the government after the advice was issued this week and the government admitted the wording was ‘wholly inappropriate and damaging’.

The Department for Transport told the PRA: ‘The guidance wrongly oversimplified that by stating “only stop at petrol stations or motorway service stations if you really need to”.’

The DfT updated its guidance and added: ‘To be clear – petrol stations and motorway service areas remain vital in providing a safe place for motorists to stop, refuel and take a short break from driving.’

The new advice does cover other areas of transport and comes as coronavirus cases in the UK rose by 6,042 on Saturday – a slight decline on the 6,873 recorded on Friday, but still well above the peak daily cases recorded in March and April.

Experts believe the R rate is now between 1.2 and 1.5 meaning the virus is growing between 4-8 per cent a day.

Delivered in a 34-page document, it also advises people not to share a car with others that they don’t live with or who are not in their support bubble.

If you do need to share a car, it says, you must try to do so with the same people, keep the windows open and face away from each other – this advice aimed more at passengers, than the driver…

The advice adds: ‘Travel side by side or behind other people, rather than facing them, where seating arrangements allow. Face away from each other and consider seating arrangements to maximise distance between people in the vehicle

‘Clean your car between journeys using standard cleaning products – make sure you clean door handles and other areas that people may touch and ask the driver and passengers to wear a face covering.’

The advice does not affect journeys made for work, but where possible should be followed to help the spread of the virus.

Car dealers should once again carefully consider how their staff use cars and conduct an updated risk assessment for their Covid-19 Secure guidelines. It is unclear at this point how this advice affects accompanied test drives.

The government advice also warns public transport should be used at off peak times and it reminds the public a face covering should be used at all times, unless exempt, or face a £200 fine.

The guidance says walking or cycling is the best way to travel where possible.

The full updated advice from the government makes interesting reading and can be seen here.

First published: Sept 27, 1003; Updated: Sept 27, 1041

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James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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