The government has green-lit plans to lift nearly all remaining Covid-19 restrictions in England on July 19 – the so-called Freedom Day.
It means, generally speaking, a return to pre-pandemic ways of socialising and buying goods and services in shops and businesses.
Making the announcement yesterday (Jul 12), Boris Johnson confirmed the lifting of restrictions on July 19 but advised caution.
He told a Downing Street news conference: ‘We will stick to our plan to lift legal restrictions and to lift social distancing, but we expect and recommend that people wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with those you don’t normally meet, such as on public transport.’
The prime minister warned that July 19 ‘should not be taken as an invitation by everybody simply to have a great jubilee and freedom from any kind of caution or restraint’.
He said he still hoped the road map was ‘irreversible’ but ‘in order to have that, it has also got to be a cautious approach’.
However, the British Medical Association immediately slammed the decision, warning of ‘potentially devastating consequences’ as England begins to open up despite soaring numbers of Covid cases.
So, with nearly all restrictions lifting on July 19, what can you do if you’re a car buyer or car dealer? Here we explain all.
What’s happening on July 19?
Nearly all remaining Covid restrictions will be lifted. That means nightclubs will reopen and a return to cinemas and theatres welcoming back full audiences.
Social distancing will no longer be necessary and there will be no limit on the number of people meeting.
Employers can gradually encourage workers to return to offices, although businesses and large events will still be spurred to use Covid-certification.
It must be stressed that this applies to England, only.
A review of current Covid measures will be carried out on July 14 in Wales, while Scotland is due to change to Covid level 0 on July 19, with most legal restrictions removed on August 9.
Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, some rules are expected to change on July 26, although measures such as social distancing will remain in place.
Can I buy a car on July 19?
Customers have been able to buy cars pretty much throughout the entire pandemic, although there was a great deal of uncertainty and confusion at first.
Car Dealer helped clear the muddied waters and in May 2020 it was confirmed that dealers could operate click-and-collect sales during the first lockdown, which allowed many customers to buy the car they wanted, just not in the normal way.
Since the second winter lockdown, people have been able to visit car showrooms and buy cars in the traditional way, albeit with strict Covid restrictions in place. These included the wearing of face coverings and test drives being solo and unaccompanied.
With restrictions lifting on July 19, the process of visiting a car showroom to buy a car or have one serviced will return completely to pre-pandemic times.
Will I need to wear a face covering?
No, there will be no legal obligation to wear a face covering from July 19 in shops and retail outlets – and this includes car dealerships.
Government guidance will be changed from the mandatory wearing of face coverings to being recommended in crowded spaces unless exempt.
As many car dealerships tend to be large with plenty of ventilation, the wearing of face coverings will be entirely at the discretion of the customer or the business itself if it feels it is necessary for health and safety.
How different will car showrooms be?
If you’ve visited a car showroom in the past 12 months then just like most other businesses you’ll have noticed how different they have become.
For car dealers, that has meant the wearing of face coverings on dealership premises – including forecourts – for staff and customers, plus sneeze screens, hand sanitiser points, and markings on floors encouraging social distancing.
In addition, showroom display cars have been locked and test drives have been unaccompanied, among other things.
Motor trade legal specialist Lawgistics told Car Dealer that all remaining Covid restrictions should be lifted from July 19, so sneeze screens will be taken down, there will be no social distancing and life inside a car showroom will return to a pre-pandemic normal.
What about test drives?
Test drives were a big topic of debate during the two lockdowns in England, and were eventually allowed by the government.
However, they had to be carried out unaccompanied – in other words, the customer had to drive by themselves or with a friend, and the dealer had to remain behind.
The lifting of restrictions on July 19 will see a return to accompanied test drives, according to Lawgistics.
Can I still buy a car online?
Many car dealers had to rapidly offer digital services during 2020 and early 2021 to take advantage of click-and-collect sales being allowed under government guidance. This ranged from live chat and video walkarounds to fully end-to-end digital car sales.
While restrictions will be lifted on July 19 and life will revert to pre-pandemic times in showrooms, online services are here to stay and so too are online car sales.
Ever since England’s second lockdown ended, many dealers have reported customers choosing to do part of their car-buying journey online and then deciding to complete the transaction in the showroom – and there’s no reason why this won’t continue from July 19.
Can we expect this to change again?
Hopefully not, but who knows? If Covid-19 restrictions have to be reinstated, car dealerships, like most other retail spaces, will have to return to strict measures. If anything changes, we’ll let you know.
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